The prevalence of modern-day slavery and child labour in global supply chains – most notoriously in the garments and extractive industries – is well documented. According to the latest global estimates, close to 73 million children work illegally in hazardous conditions, many in manufacturing products that are sold across the world. Mobile phones, clothes, make-up and food products are just some of the many consumer items that are implicated.
To ensure ethical and regulatory standards are met, companies employ ‘due diligence’ techniques to trace the origins of their raw materials through their supply chains. Despite positive efforts from some of the world’s biggest brands, the traceability of these materials – especially at the lowest levels of typically complex international supply chains – presents a significant challenge.
This means that for many businesses it remains unclear whether or not children have been used to produce the materials required for their products. The same is true for many of their consumers.
Initial ‘labour market assessments’ will be conducted in each country to identify how both local and global businesses can help provide pathways to safe and decent alternatives to the worst forms of child labour (see also Alternatives to Child Labour). The findings from these assessments will also inform how the private sector can best eliminate the worst forms of child labour within their own operations and beyond.
PACE partner Fifty Eight will map supply chains of key commodities entering international markets: gold in the Central African Republic, sesame in Ethiopia, and tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold (also known as the “3TGs”) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The mapping will be conducted from the bottom-up, in contrast to today’s more standard practice of mapping supply chains from the top-down. This will make it easier to pinpoint where materials produced using child labour enter global markets, as well as provide new insights into how companies and organisations can reduce child labour and improve traceability.
UNGC UK will convene a series of business roundtables in the DRC and Ethiopia to build greater awareness of the worst forms of child labour and serve as a forum to identify and share best practice for how to combat this problem. Coupled with interviews with targeted companies, PACE aims to generate evidence for a better model of due diligence which can be replicated by companies around the world.
Internationally, UNGC UK have launched a Child Labour Working Group, alongside a Private Sector Strategic Advisory Panel to further identify good practice at a global level and ensure the project benefits from existing expertise among some of the world’s largest companies.
Through convening targeted companies, mapping the identified supply chains, and exploring existing best practice, PACE aims to develop new models for supply chain mapping and due diligence which can be used by companies around the world to eradicate child labour from their business.
Other expected outcomes from this area of work include a greater understanding of demand-side issues (how customer attitudes towards child labour influence consumer choices, corporate decision making and social norms); greater knowledge of how informal economic activity – where child labour is most likely to be found – feeds into the regulated formal economy; and evidence of effective strategies to transition children out of work and into safe alternatives such as education or vocational training.