How 4 Big Companies Are Addressing Slavery In Their Supply Chains (And You Can, Too!)

Advantages Of A Short Supply Chain

For social enterprises like Sudara, Krochet Kids or New Zealand-based Liminal Apparel, while it may not be "easy," to establish, maintain and ensure slave-free supply chains, it is often simpler for social enterprises, who specialize in a few goods which have fewer inputs and fewer stages from source to consumer, to guarantee.

fabric + construction + distribution = short & sweet supply chain ---> ethical, slave-free

A shorter supply chain means it's simpler to guarantee ethically sourced and produced slave-free goods.

Oh, What A Tangled Web

It's not that they intend to deceive... but for major multinational corporations, supply chains are long and complex. Especially for big companies who have

  • multiple products with
  • multiple components which use
  • multiple raw materials which go through
  • multiple stages of production which involve
  • many contractors and often involve
  • many sub-contractors as well

To give a little perspective, Project Just's overview of Nike states that Nike uses 57,000 different materials, supplied by 741 vendors, and in 2015, shipped over 1 billion units through it's supply chain. (That's a lot of units.)

Supply Chain Reaction

WeTheEconomy produced the short film (8 mins) Supply Chain Reaction to describe the situation we're facing.

With so many people involved in so many stages in so many (sometimes remote) places, what's a big corp to do?

Well, thankfully, F14 can report on progress being made in eliminating modern slavery / forced labor from supply chains by these 4 companies.

4 Big Companies in the Forefront

Technology

  • Apple

Just this March the Washington Post reported on how "Apple Cracks Down Further On Cobalt Supplier in Congo as Child Labor Persists", saying

"Last year, Apple pledged to clean up its cobalt supply chain, but the technology giant said it wanted to avoid hurting the Congolese miners by cutting them off. Mining provides vital income for hundreds of thousands of people in what is one of the world's poorest countries.

"Now, Apple says it has stopped — for now — buying cobalt from artisanal mines."

Kudos to Apple for efforts to make progress on this complicated situation.

  • Intel

According to Made In A Free World, makers of the software FRDM, which helps any organization "simplify your social risk management," Intel is on the leading edge in the technology space as well.

Apparel

  • Patagonia

Patagonia has a history of responsibility. While it has long been know for environmental responsibility. It's also a leader in taking responsibility for it's supply chain and labor practices. And when we say taking responsibility, we mean, taking responsibility!

Inc. described What Patagonia Did When It Found Human Slaves in Its Supply Chain in this June 2015 article here.

(btw: Kevin Bales, pioneer in the field of modern slavery, actually recently published a book on the link between slavery and environmental destruction. It's called Blood & Earth. We haven't read it yet, but it's on our list.)

  • Nike

A few years ago, Nike was heavily criticized for it's labor practices, or rather, a lack of good labor practices. For example, in this Guardian article from 2001.

Public perception may not be what it once was, and as recently as 2016, some have gone as far as to endorse Nike, saying that "Nike’s New Sustainability and Labor Practices Are One Foot Ahead of the Game."

Hot off the presses, Know The Chain's April 2017 report, FORCED LABOR ACTION COMPARED: FINDINGS FROM THREE SECTORS uses good practice examples from both Nike and Adidas. The report states:

  • Nike: "Using technology to engage and empower supply chain workers: As part of its New Ventures pilot, Nike has developed apps to support workers both inside and outside of factories."
  • Adidas: "Remedy for migrant workers: Adidas discloses a summary of the human rights complaints it has received and details on the outcomes of remediation processes, which include several cases of remedy for migrant workers."

This is not to say that any of these companies are perfect, but they are taking action and making progress.

And with supply chains as massive, long and complex as these, it's progress we can affirm.

TAKE ACTION:

Get to Know Your Supply Chain:

Are you a consumer, investor, supply chain or procurement manager or a decision maker in an organization?

1) Read Know the Chain's Benchmark Reports on

2) Rock, Cotton, Scissors: Find out more about where your cotton or minerals are coming from via Responsible Sourcing Network. Click here.

Supply Chain, Procurement or Risk Manager?

3) Try out FRDM! Get a free trial of FRDM supply chain management software. Click here.

If there is one thing that is clear after the initial benchmarking, it is that all evaluated companies have a long way to go to truly address the risk of forced labor in their supply chains.
— Know The Chain