Engaging Business: Addressing Forced Labour

On 20 February 2008, the Coca-Cola Company hosted a conference on “Engaging Business: Addressing Forced Labour” at its headquarters in Atlanta. The meeting was sponsored by the U.S. Council for International Business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the International Organization of Employers, in Cooperation with the International Labour Organization. It brought together 80 representatives from employers’ organizations and individual companies, officials from the US Departments of Labor and State, civil society organisations and the ILO to share experiences and knowledge on combating forced labour.

The meeting was part of broader efforts – spearheaded by the ILO and its Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL), together with the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and the US Council for International Business (USCIB) – to engage business in action to prevent and eradicate forced labour. With growing investment in and sourcing from developing country markets, the business risk from forced labour is increasing. Civil society and human rights groups are now paying more attention to these concerns, often within wider debates on human trafficking and child or forced labour. Forced labour is therefore a significant risk, requiring immediate business attention. Business actors are nevertheless looking for clearer guidance, as regards the forms it takes in the modern global economy, the ways it can be identified, and the remedial action that can be taken by employers’ organizations and companies at different levels of business operations.

The one-day meeting aimed to explore these questions, including a focus on the experiences of companies that, independently or in coalition with others, are actively engaged in the elimination of forced labour.

Background Paper

The meeting was guided by a background paper, Forced Labour: Critical Issues for US Business Leaders, prepared by the ILO’s SAP-FL programme, which placed the engagement of US business leaders in the context of wider global action against forced labour. First, this set out the basic definition of the term “forced labour” in international law, and particularly in the two ILO Conventions on the subject. In essence, persons are in a forced labour situation when they enter work or service against their freedom of choice and cannot leave it without penalty or the threat of penalty. Forced labour is also a criminal act which needs to be punished as a serious penal offence, thus representing a legal obligation rather than a voluntary issue of CSR to which companies may commit themselves. Second, the paper portrayed the main forms of forced labour today, as well as its incidence around the world. In its 2005 report A Global Alliance against Forced Labour, the ILO estimated 12.3 million persons in forced labour around the world, mainly in Asia, but also several hundred thousand in the industrialized countries. Forced labour could be linked to longstanding patterns of poverty and discrimination in the poorer developing countries, but could also arise from migration and trafficking of workers around the world. As regards challenges for business, four out of every five forced labour cases were now in the private economy, mainly the informal economy, but forced labour practices were also penetrating mainstream industry. The trend towards subcontracting, and the greater use of recruiting intermediaries, could be important factors behind such practices. Third, the paper reviewed what business leaders could do, both at different levels within their own companies, and also making the business case for action against forced labour in broader public policy debates. It introduced 10 basic principles to guide business action against forced labour. Fourth it explained what the ILO and its SAP-FL are now doing, preparing guidance materials on forced labour together with employers’ organizations and concerned companies, and encouraged business actors to commit themselves to a Business Alliance against Forced Labour.

Opening Session

Opening the meeting Neville Isdell, Chairman and CEO of the Coca Cola Company, spoke of Coca Cola’s commitment to open and inclusive workplaces that promote the values of international human rights standards, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ILO’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and the United Nations Global Compact, of which they are a member. In Mr. Isdell’s words “21st century companies are more involved in the communities in which we work”. Companies as well as civil society are at the spearhead of action. However, companies cannot solve the problems alone and need all stakeholders to help improve the situation they face in the countries in which they operate.

After Mr. Isdell’s comments Ed Potter (Director, Global Workplace Rights, the Coca Cola Company) acknowledged that, although these issues seem distant to most, many companies represented in the room were exposed to the issues of forced labour and child labour within their supply chains. “Companies in industries ranging from clothing to food processing to electronics are suffering reputational and business damage from allegations related to forced labor, human trafficking and child labor,” said Mr. Potter. “Our goal as a company is to continue to build our reputation as a recognized workplace human rights leader that can materially impact the sustainability of local communities where we do business.”

Echoing the concern of Mr Isdell, Brent Wilton, Deputy Secretary General of the International Organisation of Employers, again stated businesses cannot do this alone but that it requires the broadest coalition possible to address and eliminate forced labour. Forced labour is linked to poverty and trafficking, and the business community needs to expand its understanding of the forced labour issue. Mr Wilton stated that the ILO’s tripartite structure is the best platform to address these issues and we must come together to expand our understanding of the issue and look for ideas that can be used on the ground to eliminate forced labour.

Panel One: The Forced Labour Issue

A first panel addressed the impact of forced labour on business, in the context of current labour and human rights concerns. The three panellists were: Christine Bader, Advisor to the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights; Roger Plant, Head of ILO’s Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour; and Donna Chung, from Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg.

Ms. Bader provided an overview of the UN’s human rights framework and discussed the recent Report by the Special representative to the UN Secretary-General’ on Business and Human Rights. She stated that the Report had three main points:

  • Protect – a state's duty is to protect its citizens and promote human rights;
  • Respect – governments expect companies to respect human rights and develop policies to assess and monitor the impact of their operations;
  • Remedy – there should be grievance mechanisms to address human rights issues;

She pointed to the lack of an overall conceptual framework specifically for businesses to aid them in identifying and acting with other key stakeholders in eliminating forced labour. Ms. Bader concluded by saying that the challenge for companies today is how to ensure that forced labour doesn’t exist in their supply chains and that specific methods are needed to prove that it has been eliminated.

Mr. Plant emphasised that forced labour is not just about people in shackles and chains. Today, more complex forms of control of workers include the confiscation of identity papers, induced indebtedness and deliberate non-payment of wages. There has been considerable recent media attention, concerning ways in which forced labour can penetrate an industry’s supply chain. Companies have responded to the media’s accusations, such as mining companies in Brazil, through the development of codes of conduct and use of labour inspectors to verify workplaces free from forced labour. Mr. Plant highlighted the situation of migrant workers who are particularly vulnerable to forced labour. Some unscrupulous recruitment agencies are now burying migrant workers in debts that can be worked off only with extreme difficulty.

Mr. Plant referred to ongoing ILO initiatives to develop tools for business to help them identify and combat forced labour. These tools will need to be adapted to the various sectors where forced labour is found. The need to monitor both national and international recruitment agencies was also emphasised, regulating informal labour brokers, and curbing the excessive fee-charging that without due controls can degenerate into debt bondage situations. Better labour inspection and law enforcement was crucial to the success of the legislation in eliminating forced labour from supply chains. Finally, forced labour needed to be factored into risk management for businesses. If steps are not taken soon, forced labour will grow and become an even greater threat to today’s business climate.

Donna Chung outlined two particular key areas of concern, namely:

  • Reputation Loss - NGOs along with the media have brought forced labour to light and this could have a negative impact on a companies stock value, and;
  • Legal and Operational Liabilities – there are a number of legislative frameworks (i.e. international standards and norms, the 1930 US Tariff Act barring goods made with child/forced/prison labour, the 2005 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, TVPRA, as well as upcoming U.S. “anti-sweatshop” legislation). She also highlighted the role of government agencies in combating forced labour and trafficking (i.e. US Department of Labour’s list of goods made with forced labour) and the Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Ms. Chung also identified a number of positive aspects to eliminating forced labour from supply chains such as enhancing supply chain management for more efficient product development and extended collaboration with key stakeholders. She appealed to the participants to practice “strategic” corporate social responsibility (CSR) to build a competitive advantage. Ms. Chung provided an overview of Michael Porter’s value chain diagrams to illustrate the larger interconnected system of value chains through the "value system" which includes the value chains of a firm's supplier, the firm itself, and the firm's buyers.

In discussion, the audience raised several definitional concerns as regards what practices actually constituted forced labour, what was its actual definition, and the circumstances in which compulsory overtime might be considered forced labour. Questions were also raised about the old model of the company town where there was a degree of economic dependence by these communities on the company itself. Was this to be considered forced labour? There was a call for a clearer and useable definition of forced labour that businesses could understand.

Panel Two: Case Studies and Innovative Approaches against Forced Labour

    In a second panel, moderated by Robert Corcoran, General Electric’s Vice President for Corporate Citizenship, the focus was on what works and why in business action against forced labour. Three case studies were presented by John Morrison, from the Business Leaders’ Initiative on Human Rights. Opening remarks were made by Jeff Krilla, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, US Department of State. Follow-up commentators were David Schilling, Director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility; Jorge Perez-Lopez, Executive Director of the Fair Labor Association; and Adam Kanzer, Managing Director and General Counsel, Domini Social Investments.

The three case studies were:

  • Brazil: Pig Iron in the Automobile Manufacturing Industry – This case focused on forced labour allegations in the camps which provide charcoal to major pig iron exporters in country. Action by business included a press release by the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) which announced collective training for suppliers on how to avoid purchasing supplies produced from forced labour, requested suppliers to certify that materials were not produced with forced labour and to have labour inspectors certify the absence of forced labour, and the development of a “dirty list” of companies in which forced labour had been detected in their supply chains.
  • China: Electronics Industry – The case focused on allegations of forced labour in a Taiwanese-owned factory assembling products for a US company where working conditions ranged from very long working hours, insufficient accommodation, prevention from leaving the facility, to the presence of child labour. The US company responded within three days of the allegation and initiated extensive factory visits, worker interviews, and pressed the company to comply with weekly overtime limits.
  • Jordan: Textiles for the Garment Industry –A US-based NGO, the National Labour Committee (NLC), had reported harsh working conditions for migrant workers in the export-oriented Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZs). These included physical and sexual abuse, lack of remuneration, lack of access to adequate food and water, and confiscation of identity documents. In response to these allegations, the National Textile Association (NTA) along with the AFL-CIO filed a joint complaint under the labour chapter of the US-Jordan free trade agreement. Notably, this was the first time that a complaint had been made by a business organization under a trade agreement.

Pursuant to these allegations in Jordan, the response of different buyer companies to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre was reviewed. One stated that it did not work directly with factories in the QIZ, but rather with vendors, and that it expected all vendors and factories to follow local laws and their own standards. Another apparel company stated that the factory in question had produced a valid certification from a recognized programme and that, following the NLC report, it had carried out its own investigation which verified some of the allegations. It had encouraged corrective action, but had little leverage as its order accounted for less than one per cent of the factory’s production capacity. In view of the lack of cooperation from the factory, the company decided not to place further orders. The response from a third company, engaged in distribution, highlighted an on-site audit by their own internal auditors, followed by a further visit where improvements were noted. This company, observing that it would only terminate a relationship in the face of egregious violations such as prison labour, stated that it is working collectively with the Government of Jordan, other retailers and the ILO to address the issues.

Discussion focused on the lessons learned and the effectiveness of these actions. Some lessons were that:

  • Greater cooperation is needed to eliminate forced labour from the supply chains
  • Governments have taken some action but more is needed especially on law enforcement
  • Industry-wide codes of conduct are good tools but should be supported more strongly
  • By acting quickly and being thorough in their response, some companies have quelled concerns about working standards.

Mr Krilla provided specific examples of forced labour practices that can have impact on overseas US business operations. In Uzbekistan for example, despite the ban on forced labour, it “still continues in cotton fields and even five star hotels” and more sophisticated techniques are being used to avoid detection. Forced labour in China was an important concern because of the major investments being made there against a backdrop of weak civil society and monitoring infrastructure. Mr Krilla indicated that the best way to combat forced labour, in working with the US government, was to lodge a complaint through the Generalised System of Preferences process.

Mr Krilla pointed to AGOA, Caribbean Basin Initiative and US bilateral trade agreements and to their labour clauses which request respect for core labour standards. He encouraged business to contact the Labour Officers in US Embassies and to raise concerns if they see labour abuses. Corporate social responsibility should not seek to replace the rule of law and “the U.S. Department of State supports multi-stakeholder initiatives to eliminate sweatshops”.

Mr Kanzer reiterated that forced labour issues in a business supply chain have recently risen in importance. He questioned the assumptions by Milton Friedman, almost 40 years ago, that the role of corporations is essentially to make profits for shareholders with no place for social responsibility as a business function. He asked whether Mr. Friedman would feel the same today, knowing the risks to a business that forced labour presented.

“The more removed from the light of compelled disclosure the more egregious the exploitation” stated Mr. Kanzer. He continued that business risk assessment meant that a company must protect itself from danger and that it was increasingly impossible to mitigate risk without addressing the problem. Mr Kanzer spoke about how the media and a “strengthened civil society” are the eyes and ears of the public at large and observed that there was a demand for greater transparency.

Regarding the case study of Brazil, he observed that systematic problems including the concentration of power complicated the response to forced labour. 60% of forced labour in Brazil was in cattle rearing and 15% in sugar. Mr. Kanzer concluded that today major brands are able to see down through their supply chains and know where the products come from and called for greater commitment to address forced labour in these supply chains.

Mr. Jorge Perez-Lopez observed, in the context of recent media reports about Jordan, that this case, while interesting, is not unique; and that discrimination against migrant workers together with confiscation of their identity documents is a common complaint in many different countries. His organisation assists and promotes monitors to conduct independent external monitoring of facilities to see if they are complying with their code of conduct. As regards the Jordanian case, at first there was a denial that forced labour existed, but the Fair Labour Association provided the parties with practical support to remedy the situation. The companies worked closely with the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and the U.S. Department of Labour (USDOL) on addressing the issues and facilitating remedies. Moreover the “Better Work” project implemented by the ILO and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) is now helping the stakeholders resolve their problems.

Mr. David Schilling stressed the importance of capacity building for the various actors concerned, and of multi-stakeholder responses, in addressing forced labour in supply chains. Given the general surprise of many business actors that forced labour could penetrate their own operations, the need now is to identify the areas that are not being addressed and to see what business can do to eliminate forced labour. An example of a positive business response was the adoption by Ford of a basic code on working conditions in 2003. “Training modules are starting to cascade down the supply chain to suppliers sometimes two or three levels down”. However this was happening slowly. On the issue of monitoring and transparency, these components have not yet been put in place. When these components are developed and integrated into business operations they will go a long way towards eliminating forced labour and helping a wider range of workplace issues.

It is also important to focus on recruitment agencies, which can be important allies in ensuring that egregious violations are mitigated. Also small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and especially those who are part of the Global Compact, can be important allies in addressing the lack of rights at work. An incremental approach must build upon what has been developed, improving that as more stakeholders contribute to the process.

In discussion the following points were raised.

The ILO is working with Governments to build their capacity to address forced labour. However, it does not contribute to or maintain a “blacklist” of companies that use forced labour. In Brazil, where such a list does indeed exist, it has been developed and maintained by the Ministry of Labour.

Several participants discussed the situation in Brazil, and the impact of the Government’s “dirty list” of companies. If such companies had been identified, why did the Government not repeal their business licences and shut them down? What was the experience with automobile companies, now that the incidence of forced labour in their supply chain was known? While forced labour might be a supply chain issue from a corporate perspective, what wider role could be played by business? As regards multinational companies, it was observed that the IOE encourages companies to join national business associations to have a presence and a voice at the local level. While child labour has been a more visible issue on which companies can engage, forced labour is actually important to a business’ operating environment.

In commenting on steps that have been taken, Mr. Perez-Lopez stated that in terms of the ILO’s project Better Factories Cambodia, the down-side was that the Ministry of Labour was really not as involved as it should have been and capacity building was largely absent. However, learning from this lesson the Better Work project, operating now in Jordan, has made the building of capacity for the Government a key component.

As regards the development of lists, Ambassador Mark Lagon (Director, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Dept of State) observed that there are different ways to proceed. One approach is to identify the bad actors throughout the supply chain making public their negative impact. Lists have been developed which identify sources and commodities that use exploited labour in their production. However, the most important approach, and one that U.S. Department of State supports, is a list of Good Actors where we can highlight model responses to eliminating forced labour from supply chains.

Mr. Kanzer stressed that, however good the lists may be in themselves, they need to be maintained through the process of monitoring so information was current and correct. On the same point, Mr. Schilling stated that changes in factories and changes in management created difficulties in ensuring that the information is accurate and in verifying whether factories were in compliance.

Mr. Corcoran pointed out that the cooperation which has so far been undertaken by companies remains insufficient. The fact that forced labour practices are violations of the law means that there are opportunities for the national government to step up its response to these challenges.

Lunchtime Keynote

Ambassador Mark Lagon spoke on “Government Expectations of Business in Addressing Forced Labour”. He observed that, with the increasing trend towards outsourcing labour to developing country markets, there is a greater likelihood that human rights violations will occur “with corporate headquarters possessing little to no knowledge before it is too late”. In the “common pursuit of human dignity”, the complexity of the challenges required “creative thinking on the part of business and the government. Mr. Lagon described a number of examples of forced labour, ranging from shrimp processing plants through to pig-iron and textiles, all illustrating the need for urgent action from business. “Denying products made with forced labour access to markets reduces incentives for exploitative employers and encourages ethical business behaviour”. There were at the same time “notable corporate actors” such as Gap, Microsoft and Manpower, and his office intends to “call attention to good corporate citizens” in their website, speeches and annual report.

Ambassador Lagon called on participants to announce a “zero tolerance for forced labour of any kind” and for business to reflect this in both their codes of conduct and actions as well as words. He hoped that government and business could “stand together morally and develop strategies practically to stop slave labour in the dark shadows of the world economy”.

Facilitated Table Discussions on Key Questions regarding Forced Labour

Facilitator Jan Beaves (Group Human Resources Director, The Coca-Cola Company) asked participants to review the following questions:

  • How has Forced Labor been addressed? Which business strategies have been effective in addressing Forced Labor? What challenges have you encountered?
  • What tools/information do you consider relevant and useful to identify and combat Forced Labor?
  • What role should employer/business organizations play to support the efforts of business in combating the issue of Forced Labor at national/international levels?

The results were presented in plenary at the end of the day (see below).

Panel Three: Implementing Business Strategies to Address Forced Labour

This panel was moderated by Mike Eastman (Executive Director, Labour Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce). The two panellists were Bonnie Nixon-Gardiner (Global Program Manager for Social and Environmental Responsibility, Hewlett-Packard), and David Arkless (Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs, Manpower Inc.).

Ms. Nixon-Gardiner stressed the need to change mind sets, in order to see forced labour as an inhumane and illegal act. Consumers were generally “unwilling to pay more for products unless required to confront the human cost” of forced labour. Moreover, a penalty system can “drive the more egregious examples underground” away from the public eye and needed better investigative and enforcement mechanisms. She called upon the business community to “clearly state their position on these issues”, ensure that their commitment to eliminating forced labour was communicated throughout the company structure and that mechanisms for action were properly funded. Ms. Nixon suggested that companies undertake a “risk assessment or audit” of their supply chains and not just distribute a checklist which can not be verified.

David Arkless warned that “Selling the issue of forced labour to clients is very difficult”. He outlined a number of examples in which clients were uninterested in addressing or even talking about forced labour which at times jeopardised multi-billion dollar contracts. Governments can be convinced to make changes, restricting foreign direct investment can be a powerful motivation for governments to change their approach to forced labour. He implored companies to use their core competence to influence change in the markets where the company was active, alluding to the power of the dollar in negotiations. The biggest issue for companies over the next five years would be how to attract and retain good employees. And given the attention in the media and in civil society that issues like forced labour and child labour have been given, people were more conscious of companies’ reputations and increasingly wanted to work for companies perceived as doing good in the communities in which they work. Business federations should put in place standards that ensure labour supply issues are corrected.

As regards the way forward, Mr Arkless referred to the huge importance in the US of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which had strengthened corporate accounting controls and changed the way that company finances are handled. There should now be an equal movement to change the way that workers are recruited, and cut out the abusive practices. Regulating the recruitment agencies would mean that qualified recruiters ensure that people are not exploited and have a measure of protection.

Facilitated Table Discussions: Main Ideas

The session provided the opportunity for free and creative thinking, as to the steps needed to help business root forced labour out of their operations. Participants were encouraged to define specific next steps that could be taken by the business community, including companies and employers’ organizations, acting together with the ILO, government and also NGOs. They were requested to prioritize activities, for example indicating which could be undertaken in 2008 and 2009 respectively and if possible to identify which of the ideas discussed in earlier sessions were most feasible in combating the issue of forced labour at national and international levels. Finally, participants were encouraged to specify the role that could be played in implementing these ideas by, respectively, (a) employers (b) employers’ and business organizations (c) the ILO (d) governments, and (e) NGOs and others.

Many important ideas were put forward, paving the way for more coherent action against forced labour in the years to come. One major theme was the role of government, in establishing an appropriate law and policy framework, in explaining the operating environment, in helping develop codes of conduct, and in taking action against companies that use forced labour. There was much discussion of the basic definition of forced labour, which needs to be defined clearly in simple terms that business actors can understand, and not letting the subject “leach off” into additional issues which may not amount to forced labour in the strict legal sense. There were calls for the clearest possible guidance on what is and is not acceptable practice, together with detailed “How to” advice and best practice examples. While multi-stakeholder initiatives were commended, it was urged that these should come up with concrete action plans on which all stakeholders could agree, and into which they could all have an input.

A particular concern was the need to prevent abusive practices among recruitment agencies, both nationally and internationally. A key issue, on which guidance is urgently needed, is what recruitment fee if any can acceptably be charged.

Several tables stressed the need for better “strategic mapping” of forced labour concerns, by both country and sector. There was a need for country-specific risk information, together with assessment of the level of compliance, and of the capacity of labour inspectors and other monitors. There was need for a clearing house approach, perhaps based on such models as the Better Business Bureau or the Underwriters Laboratories Inc.

Auditing, and credible monitoring mechanisms, received much attention. Businesses are not considered credible when monitoring themselves, nor are the third party auditors paid by a company considered credible, and the ILO does not audit. The capacity of auditing to identify and "root out" forced labour was considered limited. There is need for improved coordination of auditing and for a global mechanism that promotes greater coherence amongst auditing initiatives, possibly involving ILO. In any event, the involvement of the ILO and/or pertinent NGOs would be needed to provide benchmarks for the auditing process.

Discussion also focused on the steps that can be taken by business, when forced labour has been detected. Within each industry, specific groups of employers could develop procedures that permitted the termination of contracts when there is evidence that contractors have breached forced labour laws. On this point, there was a need to develop resources within a company for better understanding of the laws, legal systems and their application. Industries could also agree on an approach that combined sanctions against those who use forced labour with compensation for victims.

Many useful points were made about the respective roles of the ILO, employers’ organizations, individual companies, multi-stakeholder initiatives, and NGOs. The ILO should take the lead in clarifying the concept of forced labour in accordance with its Conventions, and in providing practical guidance on the risk or incidence of forced labour through its training materials and programmes. Through involving business in its Global Alliance against Forced Labour, the ILO and its social partners can also drive the basic goal of eradicating all forced labour by 2015, as a banner around which to motivate greater company involvement. But in taking up this challenge, the ILO itself must be carefully attuned to business reality. Moreover, the ILO can help achieve policy coherence within and across global bodies.

A key role is to be played by employers’ organizations under the general guidance of the International Organization of Employers (IOE). They are vital for lobbying, convening events, facilitating exchange of experience and “keeping the issues alive”. The IOE – as the only recognized organization representing the interest of employers in all social and labour matters at international level - encourages the action of national employers’ organizations.

Participants welcomed the role of multi-stakeholder initiatives, while calling for concrete and specific action. There was a general feeling that “We do not need any more codes”. Let’s look at what we have, create a clear and consistent approach, and “move from talk to tangible results”. A good approach would be to begin with a pilot project, and then transfer the learning experience to enhance future capacity building. NGOs can act as an early warning system, help find solutions through their partnerships, and also play a key role at the community level.

It was recognised that forced labour rarely exists in isolation from the abuse of other human and labour rights, and that multi-stakeholder initiatives are also important in developing practices across a number of core labour rights. While work was now under way to try to consolidate existing codes, there was a need for full clarity as to how forced labour may manifest itself in the workplaces of suppliers and other businesses. It was important to be pragmatic, and not to make excessive demands on suppliers with regard to practices (eg. compulsory overtime, payment of recruiting agents, or the voluntary surrender of travel documents to the employer), where the provisions of national laws varied, and where further guidance may be needed from the ILO and its supervisory bodies as to the precise circumstances in which any of such practices may amount to forced labour.

Conclusions, Closure and Next Steps

The meeting concluded with brief statements by the organizers. There was consensus that enough ideas had been put forward, on a matter of growing importance, to keep this group moving forward, to facilitate access to good practice, and continue to distil these from companies.

The Atlanta meeting was experimental, probably the first time that a group of this kind with significant company participation has specifically discussed forced labour and the means to engage business actors against it. A momentum now exists, with similar follow-up meetings already taking place in Washington, London and elsewhere. Furthermore, the IOE is now refining its own policy framework on forced labour.

The ILO, working in close cooperation with the IOE and its affiliated organizations, is now working on a series of tools on forced labour for business and employers (covering policy, assessment, remediation, good practice and sectoral activity). If appropriate through the US Council for International Business (www.uscib.org), US and other companies may wish to contact the Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour (forcedlabour@ilo.org) to share their own dilemmas and experience, and indicate the areas on which specific guidance is most needed. Over the coming months, particular attention will also be given to ensuring consistency in approaches to social auditing on forced labour and trafficking for labour exploitation. A workshop is scheduled for late 2008 in the US, to raise awareness and build capacity of social auditors to investigate and identify cases of forced labour across economic sectors and regions, and contribute as appropriate to prevention and remediation strategies. It will also serve as a forum to refine and validate the above-mentioned ILO tools addressed at business actors, including social auditors.

Other activities on forced labour with employers’ organizations and business actors are currently scheduled in London (1 May), Kiev (21-22 May) and in Bangkok (30 June-1 July).