Guidelines can refer to a variety of business practices. Companies may follow the guidelines of multi-stakeholder initiatives or industrial associations that they join. Guidelines can also be the recommendations that a company makes to its contractors and sub-contractors. Additionally, a company may develop guidelines with the goal of sharing them as “good practices” with others in the same industrial sector.
2) Data collection, research, risk-assessment, understanding and communicating information
In order to implement a preventative practice effectively, a company should understand the on-the-ground realities where production is taking place. Each country, community, and production facility is unique. For this reason, research and data-collection are crucial to a company’s understanding of a potentially harmful situation. Companies that seek better understanding of local situations may conduct in-house research, perform root-cause analysis, administer surveys, or conduct interviews.
A risk-assessment evaluates the risk that forced or child labor will occur. When entering a new market, setting up a production facility, or contracting with a new vendor, a company may seek to determine which workers are the most vulnerable. A risk-assessment is often carried out in conjunction with NGOs, trade unions and governments. The ILO identifies characteristics of vulnerable workers: ethnic or minority background, poverty, age, gender (female), irregular migrant status, lack of skills, illiteracy, and employment in the informal sector.4 A company may also need to assess the risk that employers or factory owners will not comply with its policies. Businesses should be aware of the risk to their own welfare if they do not take action. According to the ILO, “To be successful, companies must manage risk in an environment where risk is not static and can emerge through the actions of the company itself, its suppliers and other actors. Allegations of forced labour and trafficking present legal risks as well as serious threats to brand and company reputation.”5
Finally, communication involves raising awareness of labor rights and conditions among workers and their communities. In terms of child labor, companies may face the hurdle of convincing employers and families that child labor has serious harmful effects. In that case, one priority may be to transform the “culture of work” in that community.6 Other communication strategies include lobbying local or national governments, and communicating practices, both successful and not, to the wider global community.
3) Changing business practices
Companies may change their business organization or operations to address child or forced labor. A variety of reasons can prompt a company to make systematic changes. These reasons may include pressure from the international community or labor rights organizations, negative publicity, or discovery of child labor where it was not known before. In addition, companies may encourage each other if they believe they have taken actions that are effective and can be replicated in other companies in the same or different sectors.