Eradicating forced labour from global supply chains through social dialogue

The project will strengthen management capacity of Brazilian suppliers and U.S. buyers to reduce risks of trafficking and forced labor, while enhancing the National Pact to Combat Forced Labor, launched in 2005.

The most common form of forced labor found in Brazil is debt bondage. Brazil ratified ILO’s Forced Labor Convention, 1930 (No. 29) in 1957 and the Abolition of Forced Labor Convention, 1957 (No. 105) in 1965. The Government acknowledged the existence of contemporary forced labor before the ILO and the international community in 1995 and requested ILO technical assistance, making Brazil a leading example of a country committed to solving, rather than denying that problem. The ILO has been assisting the Government of Brazil and its social partners in its efforts since 2002 in the form of a project entitled “Combating forced labor in Brazil”, funded by the US Department of Labor (USDOL).

Brazil has made steady progress in the elimination of forced labor, as noted in ILO’s 2005 Global Report “A Global Alliance against Forced Labour”. Over 20,000 workers were rescued from working conditions “analogous to slavery” by the Mobile Inspection Unit of the Ministry of Labor (MOL). In 2003, the Government renewed its commitment to forced labor eradication by launching its National Plan for the Eradication of Forced Labor (now in its second revised version).


The key objective is to strengthen the Global Alliance Against Forced Labor by reducing risks of trafficking and forced labor facing Brazilian suppliers and international buyers. The immediate objectives and expected results are to: (a) raise general awareness of fundamental rights violations; b) strengthen capacity of enterprises to prevent and remediate the use of forced labor; c) enlarge the scope of information and research on supply chains.

The project contributes to Brazilian Government-led innovations, including mobile inspection raids, a public “laundry list” of companies which feeds a ban on credit from major banks, increased fines, etc. Although governmental actions are essential to fight forced labor, they are insufficient to fully deter trafficking and forced labor. It is recognized that government efforts also require concerted action among national and global suppliers and buyers based on a risk-management approach to eliminate forced labor. Direct involvement of companies and industry associations through the various partners will lead to solid tools and incorporation to business practice, ensuring sustainability among companies.


The project, to be implemented over a two-year period, will involve a multifaceted approach to raise awareness, build capacity and ensure sustainability through strengthening dialogue and collaboration between national and international companies. The project will also work with employers’ and workers’ organizations to mobilize their affiliates for developing and improving mechanisms to prevent and combat forced labor. Although adhesion to the Pact will remain voluntary, it is anticipated that the project will motivate more companies to become signatories or at least support its objectives and effective implementation. The capacity building and monitoring strategies of this project aim to support and strengthen ongoing efforts by Brazil’s Government as well as the ILO and its partners in the U.S and in Brazil.

Long Term Goal: To promote a culture of compliance among businesses, workers’ and employers’ organizations in respect to labor rights.

Short Term Goal: To eradicate forced labor from global supply chains in risk sectors through social dialogue.

Component 1: Raise general awareness on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work violations within commercial supply chains

The project will concentrate in developing a full fledged campaign on fundamental principles and rights at work to be disseminated throughout supply and productive chains. Once the issue gains visibility and the research on the supply chains affected by forced labor is completed, smaller awareness raising activities targeting specific group of companies from different sectors will be held as an outreach strategy for the voluntary National Pact.

Here the project will facilitate dialogue across private actors within each country and between the countries to promote common understanding of the issue and lay a foundation for a coherent partnership approach to addressing forced labor. Results and follow-up from such workshops should feed into capacity building components of the project, in particular the development of tools for business foreseen in Component 2.

Component 2: Strengthen risk management capacity of enterprises to identify, monitor, prevent and remediate the use of forced labor in their supply chains and operations.

The project will be bringing together, improving and formalizing already existing CSR structures in Brazil precisely for the system’s sustainability and maintenance. The materials and tools to be developed in this project include training for buyers, purchasing management, and human resource functions as well as communication tools to be utilized by all parties to better enable purchasing decisions supporting the Pact and other initiatives. These materials and tools will be universal and available for use at any time after the project’s termination. Lessons learned and technical aspects discussed during the workshops will feed into development and completion of guidance tools developed for auditors and/or purchasing agents, i.e. sample checklists, audit protocols and methodologies, and the development of a voluntary online monitoring and reporting tool.

The goal here is also to strengthen existing networks or develop a new network of Brazilian and US business actors which, with existing government policies, can advance a public-private partnership approach to preventing (re)incidence risks of forced labor in supply chains. This will be initiated first as an informal arrangement, but may be possibly formalized in the framework of the follow up to ILO’s Tripartite MNE Declaration and/or the related OECD Guidelines on Multinationals.

Component 3: Enlarge the scope of mapped information and research on current global supply chains.

There is still a lot to be understood and mapped out in relation to the business transactions found in supply chains. The research work planned in this component aims at providing partners with the necessary information to carry out the capacity building aspects of this project, thorugh identifying how goods produced using forced labor were placed within national and international productive chains, taking into account initiatives already established by the steel and soy chains.

The methodology applied consists of the identification of supply chains starting from the laundry-listed properties, moving up the chain through commercial intermediaries and reaching the domestic and international market. It is impossible to state the number of economic relations or business transactions that will be identified and confirmed. However, previous investigative work with supply chains have shown that the number is always sufficient to get the attention of end-buyers and keep the commercial restrictions on laundry-listed properties by the signatories of the Pact.