How to confront child labor in your supply chain

child-labourToday is World Day Against Child Labor, an annual day of awareness that brings together governments, employers, and workers organizations, as well as millions of people from around the world, to highlight the plight of child laborers and identify what can be done to help them. Throughout the world, approximately 168 million children work, many of them full-time, leaving them without access to education or time to play. More than half are exposed to hazardous work environments, including slavery, forced labor, drug trafficking, and prostitution.

At the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, we believe it will take a multi-sector approach to eradicate child labor. While government attitudes vary toward this problem, there needs to be legislation in place to hold people and companies accountable, though even without legislation, companies are taking steps now to eliminate child labor in their supply chain. This involves not only strengthening labor inspection services and training labor inspectors to detect and deal with the most serious cases of hazardous and abusive child labor, but also developing new approaches to the problem.

In order for things to change, companies must continue to take action and look at all the components of their supply chain, a complex mechanism that –as we know— extends past international borders. Last year, the Center hosted a webinar that looked into how companies could approach this issue. Titled A corporate approach to eradicating child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking in the supply chain, this webinar was presented in conjunction with the United States Department of Labor. Eric Biel, associate deputy under secretary for international affairs, and Rachel Phillips Rigby, deputy division chief for research and policy for the Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, highlighted some resources companies can use to ensure their business operations are free of any detrimental labor practices. The Department of Labor works with non-profits and governments to identify child labor, and to remove children from servitude, while preventing other children from falling to this fate. In addition, they produce reports that catalog findings on the worst forms of child labor around the world, as well as a list of goods produced by child labor. These reports are designed to help companies alert themselves to potential issues within their own supply chain.

Another resource provided by the Department of Labor is the Toolkit for Social Compliance Systems, an eight-step process designed to identify and correct labor issues. By following these steps, businesses can help ensure that their supply chains are free of labor issues through due diligence, as well as the remediation of any issues.

For more information on how to combat the risks of child labor and forced labor in your operations and global supply chains, visit the United States Department of Labor website.