Tag Archives: corporate social responsibility

Human Rights Due Diligence: An Overview

The purpose of this resource is to offer a comprehensive overview of global human rights due diligence legislation, including both proposed and enacted laws. Initially created for the Australian Cotton Industry, this document is also valuable for policymakers, industry professionals, civil society, and scholars interested in understanding trends in human rights due diligence, comparing legislation across countries, and estimating anticipated changes for businesses operating in Australia.

The Growing Focus on Mandatory Due Diligence

Over the past few decades, there has been heightened scrutiny on the societal impacts of businesses. International organizations have developed non-binding guidelines and recommendations since the 1970s, acknowledging companies’ responsibility to uphold human rights and implement due diligence across supply chains. However, these voluntary international agreements have fallen short in effectively safeguarding human rights within commercial supply chains. Consequently, governments have experienced increasing pressure to incorporate these guidelines into domestic legislation.

In recent years, there has been a notable increase in country-level due diligence legislation, inspired by guidelines from international organizations. Examples of such legislation include the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act 2010, the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015, the French Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law 2017, and the Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018. Our analysis highlights the rapid development of due diligence legislation, with numerous drafts currently under parliamentary discussion. Critics have voiced concerns regarding the nature of these reforms, citing lenient penalties, weak requirements, and a limited scope of businesses affected. Despite these criticisms, the growing prevalence of domestic due diligence legislation demonstrates its potential to pave the way for significant change.

Key trends in human rights due diligence legislation:

  1. Increasing robustness: New legally binding regulatory frameworks are becoming increasingly more robust, with the expectation that mandatory due diligence across supply chains will be the end result.
  2. Expanding expectations: There is a growing expectation for small and medium-sized businesses to incorporate aspects of due diligence, as seen in the Aotearoa New Zealand proposal and Canadian Modern Slavery Act.
  3. Industry-specific legislation: Laws targeting specific industries have emerged, such as the New York Fashion Act and the US FABRIC Act.
  4. Broadening scope : Some proposals extend the scope of workplace violations to include worker exploitation, as in the Aotearoa New Zealand proposal.
  5. Legal redress for victims: Certain laws provide opportunities for victims to seek legal redress, as in the Dutch Child Labor Law.
  6. Increased fines and penalties: Some acts impose higher fines and penalties, such as the US Uyghur Forced Labor Act and the German Act on Corporate Due Diligence.

These trends indicate a global shift towards stronger and more comprehensive human rights due diligence legislation, emphasising the importance of businesses in upholding human rights and promoting sustainability across their supply chains.

Broken Promises: business failure on modern slavery

A new report, Broken Promises: Two years of corporate reporting under Australia’s Modern Slavery Act, examines the second year of corporate statements submitted to the Government’s Modern Slavery Register by 92 companies sourcing from four sectors with known risks of modern slavery: garments from China, rubber gloves from Malaysia, seafood from Thailand and fresh produce from Australia.

It finds that:

  • 66% of companies reviewed (down from 77% in the first year) are still failing to comply with the basic reporting requirements mandated by the legislation, with some companies not submitting reports at all;
  • Over half (56%) of the commitments made by companies in the first year of reporting to improve their modern slavery response remained unfulfilled based on their second year statements;
  • 43% of companies reviewed (down from 52% in the first year) are still failing to identify obvious modern slavery risks in their supply chains;
  • There is a mere 6% increase in the number of companies appearing to be taking some form of effective action to address modern slavery risks, with two in three companies still failing to act.

Seafood, rubber gloves, oranges: tainted by modern slavery?

If your clothes are made in China, rubber gloves from Malaysia and seafood sourced from Thailand, researchers are warning you may be at risk of supporting modern slavery practices.

Those were identified as the sectors with the highest risk of modern slavery in a new report, produced by a coalition of human rights organisations and academics.

And despite previous warnings of the risks to Australian companies sourcing these products, little has changed to improve the risks.

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Using Market Devices to Address Labour Abuses

This study examines how the risk of labour standards noncompliance can be rendered calculable and commensurable through a market device. We present a case study of the Cleaning Accountability Framework (CAF), an industry certification scheme, which seeks to address labour exploitation in the Australian contract cleaning industry. We pay particular attention to the central device of the certification scheme – the pricing schedule. We examine how the pricing schedule shaped the calculative space informing contracting parties during the procurement process. In doing so, the pricing schedule increased transparency around the potential risk of labour standards noncompliance. The nature of this transparency and the perceived objectivity of the pricing schedule acted to reshape the market for contract cleaning, resulting in a redistribution of accountability for labour exploitation. We also examine how the pricing schedule formed part of a wider framework of accountability, and how these mechanisms enabled strategic co-enforcement of labour standards compliance by supply chain stakeholders. Overall, our study indicates the potential for accounting practices to play a more active role in shaping how markets address modern slavery risks.

Pandemic Disruption of the Textile and Apparel Value Chain

The COVID-19 pandemic disruption has had a significant impact on the textile and apparel value chain, particularly on garment workers in the Global South. The disruption caused by the pandemic has raised questions about global justice and responsibility for these workers. This briefing paper investigates how the Australian cotton industry can influence working conditions along the textile and apparel value chain, and provides a detailed summary of the context surrounding the impact of COVID-19 on the textile and apparel value chain.

The  pandemic had a calamitous effect on the lives of garment workers in the Global South. Women make up 80% of the labor force in the textile and apparel value chain, meaning that they have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in the sector. Migrant workers are important to the global textile labor force, and the exploitation of migrant workers has been an ongoing concern. The effects of COVID-19 are ongoing, and many countries are experiencing surges, different variants, and returns to lockdown, putting garment workers economically, socially, and medically at risk.

Global activism campaigns have sought to mobilise support and ignite corporate accountability. The #PayUp campaign, for example, urged consumers to hold brands accountable for paying their workers despite canceling orders. Large corporations canceling their orders had a dramatic effect on household income, leading to an increase in malnutrition and homelessness. The loss of jobs in apparel manufacturing was caused by several factors and continues to have a ripple effect on the longer-term economic security of workers.

As well as responding to the events of the pandemic, many actors are ‘future proofing’ their supply chains. The disrupted access to materials and political tensions will give some countries a notable advantage for export competitiveness. The global push for some textile industries in the Global North to ‘re-shore’ production has become a topical issue in recent policy debates. Responses to the problems faced by garment workers have focused on potential points of leverage at the endpoint of the value chain. Overall, the supply chain disruptions of the pandemic spotlight the need for stakeholders to work collaboratively to protect worker well-being.

UN report on China’s abuse of Uyghurs: What Should Australia Do in Reponse?

For three years, Sadam Abdusalam watched his newborn grow into a toddler through the screen of a mobile phone. He was thousands of kilometres away in Australia, and his son Lufti and his wife Nadila were stuck in China’s Xinjiang province, unable to leave.

A Uyghur originally from Xinjiang, Mr Abdusalam was separated from his family for three years after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seized Nadila’s passport in 2017. He said the CCP began taking “as many” Uyghurs’ passports as they could in that year.

Continue reading UN report on China’s abuse of Uyghurs: What Should Australia Do in Reponse?

Envisioning Wellbeing Economies through the Australian Fashion Industry Context

Sustainability leaders, experts, industry and innovators from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific came together to share their knowledge on sustainability challenges and opportunities in the Oceania region as part of a major international sustainability event.

Coordinated by Future Earth Australia, Australian Academia and government partners hosted the sustainability-focused event in Brisbane from 29 June – 1 July 2022.

Sessions were held over three days and covered any aspects of sustainability: climate change, Indigenous knowledges, coastal resilience, urban sustainability, synthetic biology and more. It will focus on sustainability issues and challenges unique to Oceania.

The Oceania Satellite Event built on the outcomes of the inaugural SRI2021 Congress last year in Brisbane, that featured more than 2000 attendees from over 100 countries.

Wellbeing Economies through Fashion

  • 0:04 Welcome from Moderator : Assoc. Prof. Samantha Sharpe
  • 2:12 Wellbeing Economy – Sufficiency – UTS/ISF – Dr.Monique Retamal
  • 10:04 Reuse / Repair – Monash – Aleasha McCallion
  • 18:05 Policy & Stewardship – QUT – Assoc.Prof. Alice Payne
  • 26:30 Inclusive fashion Practices and Intersectionality – USC – Deborah Fisher 
  • 34:36 Circularity – Monash – Julie Boulton.
  • 47:04 Modern Slavery – UNDA – Assoc.Prof. Martijn Boersma
  • 55:33 Regenerative Business models – UTS ISF – Karina Kallio 
  • 1:04:40 Discussion

Modern Slavery Risks in the Cleaning and Security Industry

This briefing session brings together academic experts in the fields of modern slavery, labour law compliance, supply chain due diligence and temporary migrant workers, to share insights and advice on how universities can demonstrate leadership in promoting good labour practices. The aim of this briefing is to assist relevant stakeholders in the higher education sector to understand their role in promoting good labour practices, and provide guidance on practically how to do this. This briefing is aimed at professionals working in university procurement and contract management, university modern slavery working groups, university risk and compliance, cleaning and security contractors that currently hold contracts at university campuses.

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Why a degree in modern slavery is a valuable addition to your CV

Modern slavery may seem a distant issue in Australia, but a new course will teach graduates why an understanding of it is increasingly important in every business

It might be easy to imagine, especially in Australia, that slavery is a thing of the past. But an estimated 15,000 people were living in conditions of modern slavery here in 2016, through forced marriage and labour, sexual exploitation, debt bondage and human trafficking – exploitation that disproportionately affects women, children, asylum seekers and migrants. Globally, in that same year, 40.3 million victims were being abused.

Martijn Boersma is an associate professor of human trafficking and modern slavery at the University of Notre Dame Australia, where a new course aims to provide the skills and knowledge that will enable people to work proactively to put an end to the exploitation of vulnerable people.

Continue reading Why a degree in modern slavery is a valuable addition to your CV