880 timber industry workers in Brazil have been rescued from forced labour © AFP/Getty Images
880 timber industry workers in Brazil have been rescued from forced labour © AFP/Getty Images

Lack of action on forced labour in timber supply chains

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
19 November 2019

Firms in the US display a “stark lack of action” to tackle forced labour in timber supply chains, according to an NGO.

In a report KnowTheChain said an assessment of 39 of the largest publicly-listed firms in the paper, forestry and home furnishing sectors showed 59% disclosed a supplier code of conduct with forced labour provisions. But only 5% had a remedy process for workers found to have suffered abuses.

The report said 23% of firms reported a grievance mechanism was available to supply chain workers, but only 5% reported on outcomes.

“The findings show a stark lack of action,” said KnowTheChain.

The report said timber was the fifth largest product by value at risk of forced labour imported to the US and up to 50% of illegal logging globally was dependent on forced labour. Between 2011 and 2017, 880 workers in the timber industry in Brazil were rescued from forced labour.

“Forced labor can occur in logging, and may include threats, violence, poor living and working conditions, a lack of formal contracts, and non-payment of wages,” said the report.

“It also may occur in sawmills, where workers may have to work excessive and unpaid overtime while having their documents retained and movement restricted.”

KnowTheChain said: “Due to the high risks and the lack of corporate action, investors are urged to conduct human rights due diligence before and during investment in companies in the forestry sector.

“Investors should probe investee companies on their efforts to ensure that all workers receive full payment of wages and are not charged recruitment fees or related costs, and have grievance mechanisms and remedy processes available to workers in their supply chains.”

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