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Eradicating forced labour in supply chains

Future of Supply Chain

by Abe Eshkenazi, Chief Executive Officer, Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM)

Industry View from

Eradicating forced labour in supply chains

As supply chains become increasingly complex and interconnected, the risk of modern-day slavery being present within these global networks continues to escalate.

As our global networks deliver the products and services we depend on every day, it is crucial consumers know the paths they took to our homes and businesses. Too often, this journey involves slave labour.

It is a tragedy that millions of people fuelling today’s supply chains face labour rights violations, unsafe working conditions, discrimination and corrupt sourcing processes. As William Crandall PhD writes in SCM Now magazine, “If you are like many supply chain professionals, you wonder about the corporate social responsibility and ethical standards in the far tiers of your supply chain, particularly those in developing countries. You hope people are receiving adequate wages, have a safe environment in which to work and are given decent supervision. Yet, there is an uncomfortable reality that must be acknowledged: slavery is alive and well in far too many supply chains.”

While there isn’t an official definition of a modern-day slave, the International Labour Organization (ILO) describes it as work that is “performed involuntarily and under the menace of any penalty.” It also refers to situations in which people are coerced to work through the use of violence, intimidation, manipulated debt, retention of identity papers or threats of denunciation to immigration authorities. The ILO states that forced labour in the private economy amounts to $150 billion in corrupt profits each year.

A recent Walk Free Initiative report found that 40.3 million people live in conditions of modern-day slavery. Of these victims, 18 per cent of adults are labouring in construction, 15 per cent in manufacturing and 11 per cent in agriculture or fishing. Slavery is particularly rampant in industries with severe downward pricing pressures, as cost-cutting often involves less pay, disregarded safety procedures and imprisonment through withheld identification or documentation.

As Crandall writes – and as ASCM is committed to seeing to fruition – there are means for putting an end to it. Supply chains have the power to create a better world, and industry professionals must work together to tap into that potential. The way forward will depend on these industry leaders meticulously ensuring the integrity of their networks, methodically mapping their companies’ entire supply chains, and maintaining codes of conduct that are both fully effective and in force.

The ASCM Foundation is mobilising supply chain communities, skilled leaders and visionary partners. Together, we are committed to solving this critical problem that affects so many lives. Learn more about all of the initiatives the foundation is pursuing and how you can help at ascm.org/making-an-impact. Please join us in harnessing the power of supply chains to create a better world by eradicating modern-day slavery.

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE, is CEO of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM). Learn more about how ASCM is working to create a better world through supply chain at ascm.org.

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