Forced labour

This page presents all relevant good practice case studies that showcase how business have addressed the Forced labour dilemma. Case studies have been developed in close collaboration with a range of multi-national companies and relevant government, inter-governmental and civil society stakeholders. We also draw on public domain sources, including the UN Global Compact's own published Communications on Progress through which signatories are required to report on their performance against the Ten Principles.

The case studies explore the specific dilemmas and challenges faced by each organisation, good practice actions they have taken to resolve them and the results of such action. We reference challenges as well as achievements and invite you to submit commentary and suggestions through the Forum.

IN-DEPTH (Print seperately) Responsible Cotton Network: Combating forced child labour during the cotton harvest - Uzbekistan

IN-DEPTH (Print seperately) ICC: Combating slave labour in the Brazilian charcoal and steel sector - Brazil

Verite: Research and engagement on labour brokers - Asia and US

Verite, a US-based NGO, conducts research on forced labour and human trafficking around the world, with a particular focus on exploitive labour broker practices. Some of Verite’s projects include:

·         The use of forced labour in the electronics sector in Malaysia

·         Unscrupulous labour practices in the Guatemalan palm oil sector

·         Human rights abuses perpetuated throughout global supply chains of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), with a focus on ASM gold in Peru

 Verite aims to engage with companies in implementing strategies to identify and eliminate exploitive labour broker practices from their supply chains in order to minimise the risk of forced labour. Verite also provides courses that provide participants the competencies to perform audits of labour practices within companies, with a focus on auditing compensation, business ethics and working hours. These audits are run by Verite’s partnership organisation, the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC). 

International Cocoa Initiative: Combating exploitative child labour in cocoa – Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana

Established in 2002, the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) is a partnership between NGOs, trade unions, cocoa processors and companies focused on tackling exploitative child labour. Member companies include: Cargill, Hershey’s, Kraft Foods, Mars, Nestle, Twinings and Toms International, amongst others. The ICI works at both the national- and the community-level to foster programmes to combat and prevent forced child labour. The ICI has implemented programmes in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.

BSCI: Enhancing social conditions among retailers - Global

Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) was launched in 2003 by the Foreign Trade Association, a Brussels-based trade association that represents the trade interests of European companies. BSCI acts as an umbrella group for around 1,300 retail companies focused on improving working conditions in their supply chains.

The organisation has developed the BSCI code which addresses a wide range of supply chain issues, including a prohibition on forced labour as well as disciplinary measures for suppliers failing to comply with the code. Members adopt the BSCI Code internally and require their suppliers to come into compliance. BSCI provides capacity building in the form of training and technical assistance. BSCI also relies on external monitoring to ensure conformance to the code. BSCI is a member of the UN Global Compact.

Fair Factories Clearinghouse (FFC): Improving working conditions in consumer goods factories - Global

Founded in 2004, FFC is a New York-based membership organisation of companies seeking to improve working conditions in factories that make consumer goods. FFC shares compliance data between companies in order to improve the availability and standardisation of standards and audits on social, environmental and security standards. Amongst its members are Wal-Mart, Reebok, and Levi Strauss & Co. The FFC receives funding from the US Department of State. Its founders include Reebok, the National Retail Federation and the Retail Council of Canada.

ICMM: Developing principles and assurance mechanism - Global

The International Council on Metals and Mining (ICMM) is a CEO-led initiative founded in 2011 which focuses on promoting good practice in the mining and metals sector. Composed of 18 of the world’s largest mining companies and 30 associations, its corporate members include Anglo-American, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Vale, Newmont and Mitsubishi Materials. Members commit to implementing ICMM’s Sustainable Development Framework. The framework comprises a set of 10 principles focused on integrating ethnical business practices across the mining sector, supported by public reporting and independent third-party assurance. The principles were adopted in May 2003. Principle 3 prohibits the use of forced, compulsory and child labour.

Glatfelter: Improving working conditions in global supply chains - Global

Global paper manufacturer Glatfleter implements a policy focused on combating forced labour in its supply chain, based on ILO conventions and national law. The company’s ‘Child and Forced Labor Policy’, which “recognises regional and cultural differences”, explicitly prohibits exploitative working conditions and the use of any forced labour. In order to address the problem, Glatfelter engages with suppliers, industry organisations, civil society representatives and governments.

In its policy document, Glatfelter acknowledges that the risks are particularly elevated for companies sourcing raw agricultural products, due to supply chains which are often long, complex and at risk of perpetuating forced labour use. The company strongly encourages its suppliers, subcontractors and business partners to adhere to its principles on the issue.

ITC Limited: Raising awareness of workers’ rights - India

As part of its ‘No Child or Forced Labour’ policy, Indian multi-business conglomerate ITC Limited prohibits the use of forced or compulsory labour at all of its units, and maintains that no employee be made to work against their will or be subject to corporal punishment or coercion. The policy is made available to all employees through accessible induction programmes, policy manuals and intranet portals. Trade unions also engage with workers at each ITC unit to ensure they are aware of their rights. All units provide an annual report on any incidents of child or forced labour to divisional heads, and are subject to Corporate Internal Audits and Environment, Health and Safety assessments.

Ford: Four-stage action plan to combat forced labour in supply chains - Global

Under the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 (SB 657), which applies to retail sellers and manufacturers “doing business in the state”, multinational automaker Ford has disclosed its four key principles for the prevention of forced labour use in its supply chains:

·         Firstly, the company engages in risk assessment of its supply base, taking into account the geographic context, commodity type, level of labour required for production, supplier ownership structure and quality performance and the nature of the transaction.

·         Secondly, Ford operates purchase orders which require suppliers to certify compliance with standard terms and conditions on the prohibition of forced labour.

·         Thirdly, along with the other members of the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), Ford conducts training and capacity building for global purchasing staff and suppliers in high-risk markets.


·         Finally, the company carries out regular audits of at-risk ‘Tier 1’ supplier factories, resulting, if necessary, in the completion of corrective action plans to then be reassessed six to 12 months after the original audit.

Adidas: SMS campaign rolled out to improve working conditions in factories – Asia

On 6 May 2013, global sportswear brand Adidas announced that it was gradually launching a new whistle-blowing helpline at all of its Asia-based operations – to enable factory employees to voice potential grievances about labour violations. Workers employed in factories supplying Adidas will be able to send anonymous text messages – limited to 160 characters – to the SMS Worker Hotline. While managers at the factories will be the main recipients of these text messages, Adidas will also be able to access them. This will allow the company to take direct action – particularly in cases where serious violations such as forced, bonded or child labour are identified.


Adidas acknowledges that workers sometimes do not feel comfortable in bringing issues to the attention of factory management in person. The move by the Germany multinational follows a spate of deadly incidents in Bangladeshi garment factories during 2013, one of the most important source countries for the global clothing industry. In this context, the establishment of worker hotlines can enable factory employees to raise practical issues related to health and safety, as well as labour violations.

Ford/AIAG: Promoting decent and responsible working conditions through supplier training – Global

Ford implements a supplier training programme to promote responsible working conditions in its supply chain. The programme is focused on “high-priority” countries including those in:

  • The Americas (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela)
  • Asia (China, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam)
  • Europe, the Middle East and Africa (Morocco, Romania, Russia, South Africa and Turkey)

Training was originally based on Ford’s own Code of Basic Working Conditions and was implemented by Ford at supplier factories. The programme is based on one-day interactive workshops involving multiple suppliers, and is targeted at human resources, health and safety, and legal managers within supplier companies. Each participant is expected to ‘cascade’ relevant training materials to personnel within their own companies – and to their own direct suppliers. Indeed, Ford requires confirmation from participant suppliers that training information has been disseminated to these target groups within four months of each workshop.

The programme has since evolved into a joint initiative with other car manufacturers – in order to reach a larger number of suppliers (many of whom provide parts to multiple brands) more efficiently. This resulted in the formation of the Automotive Industry Action Group (‘AIAG’) through which car manufacturers from North America, Europe and Asia have developed common guidance statements on working conditions – as well as an online training programme for suppliers to the sector. These cover a range of issues including child labour, forced labour, freedom of association, discrimination, health and safety, wages and working hours.

Ford estimates that its training activity (carried out both unilaterally and in conjunction with the AIAG) has reached 2,900 supplier representatives – and been ‘cascaded’ to around 25,000 supplier managers, 485,000 workers and 100,000 sub-tier supplier companies.