Tag Archives: civil society

New book reveals modern slavery is all around us

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It’s estimated that 40.3 million people are enslaved around the world.

For many Australians, the concept of modern-day slavery may seem implausible. But it’s estimated that 40.3 million people are enslaved around the world, more than ever before in human history.

The Global Slavery Index estimates 15,000 people were living in modern slavery in Australia in 2018.

Addressing Modern Slavery examines how consumers, business and government can help eradicate one of the big challenges of our time.

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Message to Coles, Woolworths: Act now to end modern slavery

The Australian horticultural sector is one of the most at-risk industries for modern slavery.

recent survey by the National Union of Workers among 650 workers found severe underpayments and withholding of wages, excessive overtime, retention of identity documents, threats of and actual physical and sexual violence, and coercive and excessive payments for transport and board.

A group of academics, experts in the area of labour and human rights, modern slavery, and supply chains, have initiated an open letter in which they ask Coles and Woolworths to address labour exploitation and the risk of modern slavery.

Australia’s Modern Slavery Act requires businesses to report yearly on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, the actions taken in response, and the effectiveness of these actions. The first reporting cycle started on July 1.

Unfortunately, although companies and consumers are increasingly aware that modern slavery exists, it is a phenomenon that is often dismissed or misunderstood.

Continue reading Message to Coles, Woolworths: Act now to end modern slavery

Modern slavery laws – what do they mean for your business?

Modern slavery and supply chain transparency are some of the new buzz words attracting increased attention from the corporate sector, write Justine Nolan and Martijn Boersma.

In 2018, Australia (and NSW) enacted modern slavery laws which require entities to report on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains and actions taken to address those risks. This new law will impact companies, law firms, universities and the Australian government who will now need to have a better understanding about how their operations and procurement practices may be enabling modern slavery.

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Book: Addressing Modern Slavery (2019)

An estimated 40 million people are modern-day slaves, more than ever before in history.

Long after slavery was officially abolished, the practice not only continues but thrives. Whether they are women in electronics or apparel sweatshops, children in brick kilns or on cocoa farms, or men trapped in bonded labour working on construction sites, millions of people globally are forced to perform labour through coercion, intimidation or deceit.

In a world of growing inequality and trade-offs between the haves and the have-nots, consumers, business and government are all part of the problem and the solution. While we have all become accustomed to fast fashion and cheap consumer goods, the affordability of these commodities often comes at the price of human exploitation. Addressing Modern Slavery examines modern slavery and outlines ways it can be stopped.

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What Gives Multistakeholder Initiatives Legitimacy?

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Multistakeholder initiatives are often heralded as a solution to many social and environmental issues. Yet, due to their composition, these initiatives are not without tensions and challenges. This paper examines which factors determine the (il)legitimacy of multistakeholder initiatives in the context of efforts to remediate child labor.

Abstract

Child labor in global supply chains is increasingly addressed through multistakeholder initiatives. However, the participation of stakeholders with distinct views and interests can generate tensions. Based on interviews with civil society actors, this research finds that tensions exist between the normative‐ethical and political‐strategic dimensions of multistakeholder initiatives, which are manifest in the existence of international and national norms and their contextual application, in definitions of child labor, risk and responsibility, and in doubts about corporate incentives to join multistakeholder initiatives. In addition, tensions exist concerning the effectiveness of supply chain auditing, enabling broader labor rights as a means to remediate child labor, and whether standards need to be mandatory or self‐regulation suffices. The success of collaboration depends on the effective navigation of these tensions. Failure to do so can undermine the legitimacy of multistakeholder initiatives from the perspective of civil society actors. The research finds that due diligence, in the shape of human rights risk assessments, is not subject to normative‐ethical/political‐strategic tensions, and can play a key role in the success of multistakeholder initiatives and the fight against child labor.

Download the full paper.

Australian government slow to respond to supply chain labour exploitation

Rescue workers and volunteers search by hand for victims amongst the debris of the collapsed Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo: Jeff Holt
Rescue workers and volunteers search by hand for victims amongst the debris of the collapsed Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo: Jeff Holt

Sunday marks three years since the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh. This disaster led to the tragic loss of 1130 lives, left 2500 injured, and sparked a global debate about workers’ rights and ethical labour standards in low-wage countries. In Australia, civil society organisations such as Baptist World Aid and Oxfam lead the charge to expose labour abuses and improve working conditions in global supply chains. But thus far the government has been largely absent form this debate and has been slow to act.

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The Sustainability Record of Australia’s Big Banks

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Australian companies will soon be publishing financial results, as well as information about sustainability efforts. Corporate social responsibility of the big four banks – Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), National Australia Bank (NAB) and Westpac is a continuing topic of debate following recent scandals and reports of unsustainable activities. Yet according to ANZ chairman, David Gonski, Australians ought to “stop bashing the banks” for being large and profitable. This comment should put civil society on guard.

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The Latest Research Report by Catalyst Australia

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At first sight child labour may not appear to be a material issue for Australian companies and investors. However the fragmentation of global production and trade has dramatically increased the length and complexity of supply chains, which can lead to lack of oversight and worker exploitation. The global movement to eradicate child labour has gained significant pace over recent years. Increasingly, global unions and NGOs collaborate with companies and investors to find ways to deal with the risks of child labour in global supply chains. This report looks at those efforts.