Investors Commend Top Apparel & Footwear Companies in 2018 KnowtheChain Benchmarking Report on Efforts to Eradicate Forced Labor in Supply Chains

Jan 28th 2019

The International Labor Organization estimates that about 25 million people, including children, around the world are trapped in situations of forced labor, generating millions of dollars of unjust and illegal profits in the private economy.   The globalization of apparel and footwear supply chains has resulted in an increase of forced labor at each stage of production from the sourcing of raw materials through to the manufacturing process. Migrant workers are especially vulnerable to exploitation, particularly during the recruitment process where they may unknowingly enter into debt or bonded labor conditions. KnowTheChain[i] has been publishing benchmarking reports since 2016 across various sectors, assessing companies’ actions to eradicate forced labor from their supply chains based on corporate disclosures.

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, The Church Investors Group, Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility, and Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE) commend Adidas AG, Lululemon Athletica Inc., Gap Inc., Primark Limited (Associated British Foods Group), Industria de Diseño Textil S.A. and PVH Corp. for their leadership in protecting workers in the apparel and footwear supply chain from forced labor and human trafficking. Our organizations collectively represent institutional investors with over $450 billion in assets under management, including leading faith investors, socially responsible investment firms, pension funds and civil society organizations that are engaging their portfolio companies on human rights concerns.

As we celebrate US National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we recognize these leading companies for receiving the highest scores in the 2018 KnowTheChain Apparel & Footwear Benchmark Findings Report and for their efforts to eradicate forced labor in their supply chains. 

Letters of commendation were sent by our organizations to these top scoring companies for exhibiting best practices, including:

  • prohibiting worker-paid recruitment fees;
  • requiring suppliers to pay for the cost of recruitment and to reimburse fees paid by workers to attain their jobs and disclosing evidence of reimbursement of fees to workers in their supply chains;
  • training staff and suppliers on ethical recruitment and employment practices and risks related to the use of recruitment agencies;
  • moving to a direct hire model rather than using recruitment agencies; and
  • publishing supplier lists and auditing suppliers below the first tier of their supply chains.

As part of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility’s “No Fees” Initiative, our members have been productively engaging corporations in a number of sectors, including apparel and footwear, to raise awareness of forced labor risks and to promote the adoption of these practices.

We will be writing to the companies that scored poorly in this Report urging them to adopt these practices. We again wish to commend those companies that are showing leadership in helping to eradicate the scourge of slavery and human trafficking in global apparel and footwear supply chains and look forward to continued engagements with the sector on human rights concerns.  

[i] KnowTheChain is a partnership of Humanity United, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Sustainalytics, Verité, and Thomson Reuters Foundation, and was established as a resource for businesses and investors who need to understand and address forced labor abuses within their supply chains.