Better Cotton Onboards Recommendations from the Task Force on Forced Labour and Decent Work

 
In April 2020, BCI formed the Task Force on Forced Labour and Decent Work to review the current global Better Cotton Standard System. The aim of the Task Force was to highlight gaps and develop recommendations to improve the effectiveness of this system in identifying, preventing, mitigating and remediating forced labour risks. The group was comprised of experts from civil society, retailers and brands, and responsible sourcing consultancies.

The Task Force worked to review current BCI systems, discuss key issues and gaps, and develop proposed recommendations. The process included extensive consultations with a wider group of stakeholders, and culminated in a comprehensive report, published in October 2020 and available in full on the BCI website.

The BCI Leadership Team and Council have now completed a full review of the report’s findings, producing a formal response that also summarises the work that BCI has already carried out as of January 2021. The response outlines BCI’s expected short, mid, and long-term priorities to strengthen our systems on forced labour and decent work.

Alan McClay, CEO of BCI said, ”Decent work and forced labour are crucial sustainability issues within cotton production. At BCI we are committed to strengthening further our capabilities on these issues. As we launch our 2030 strategy, the Task Force recommendations help us do that. The work to implement these recommendations is already underway.”

The response welcomes the comprehensive findings of the Task Force and its identification of multiple areas where BCI will continue to focus more resources and effort. The Task Force has recognised the potential that BCI has – as a truly global network of partners – to enact change across millions of cotton farmers and workers.

The response also recognises the importance of embedding BCI’s forced labour and decent work efforts within the broader BCI strategy. This is reflected in BCI’s 2030 strategy, which includes a strong focus on decent work. We expect that work in some of these recommendation areas will span most of the next decade and even beyond.

BCI will use a phased approach to implement the activities outlined in the plan, tackling quick wins and high-priority areas promptly, whilst maintaining a long-term vision on some of the more challenging work areas that will require dedicated funding and resources. This approach will be informed by risk assessment; focusing first on areas where forced labour risks are high and BCI has a significant footprint.

BCI will look to actively collaborate with others on some of these key challenges, such as effective tools for farm workers to raise grievances. These challenges are faced across the agricultural sector, and BCI expects to work not only with local experts and grassroots organisations, but also with other initiatives to share learnings and pioneer new tools.

BCI has lost no time getting started on some of the key recommendations of the task force and will bring these into effect in time for the next season, beginning in March in the Northern Hemisphere. The BCI Leadership team is extremely grateful to the Task Force members for dedicating their time and expertise to help BCI examine our current approach and forge a path forward to transform our forced labour and decent work capabilities.

A summary of BCI’s plan to onboard the Task Force’s recommendations is available on the BCI website and can be found here.

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Task Force on Forced Labour and Decent Work Finalises Key Findings and Recommendations

 
Cotton is grown in areas of the world with formidable challenges, both environmental and social. BCI’s mission dictates that we operate in many of these regions, and therefore, we must manage complex, socio-political and economic conditions in order to deliver support and interventions where they will have the most impact. In order to adapt and respond to decent work and forced labour challenges, in particular, BCI is actively engaged in dialogue on these issues with subject matter experts and key stakeholders, including civil society organisations, retailers and brands, and ethical supply chains consultants.

To that end and in the spirit of our commitment to continuous improvement, BCI formed the Task Force on Forced Labour and Decent Work in April 2020 to review the current Better Cotton Standard System globally. The aim of the Task Force was to highlight gaps and develop recommendations to improve the effectiveness of this system in identifying, preventing, mitigating and remediating forced labour risks. The group was comprised of 12 experts representing civil society, retailers and brands, and ethical supply chain consultancies. The Task Force worked virtually for six months to review current BCI systems, discuss key issues and gaps, and develop proposed recommendations. The process included extensive consultations with a wider group of retailers and brands, field-level Implementing Partners and worker-focused organisations, among others. Their work culminated in a comprehensive report that outlines key findings and recommendations.

”It has been a privilege for BCI to be able to work with a world-class group of independent experts,” commented Alan McClay, BCI CEO. ”Their knowledge and experience have enabled us to build a robust foundation on which we shall rebalance our activities with a stronger focus on decent work and forced labour.”

The BCI Council and Management Team are reviewing the report and will carefully consider the Task Force’s findings and recommendations through the lens of BCI’s 2030 strategy. They will prepare a detailed response to the recommendations, which will be shared in January. BCI recognises that strengthening our decent work programme will be a multi-year process and will require additional resources and funding. In the short-term, we will focus on strengthening our forced labour capabilities through capacity building for staff, Implementing Partners and third-party verifiers, enhancing our due diligence for selecting and retaining Implementing Partners, and revising our assurance processes to better identify and mitigate forced labour risks.

In 2021, BCI is also exploring opportunities to pilot a more comprehensive set of decent work activities, including a detailed forced labour risk assessment and civil society engagement tactics, in one or two high priority regions.

BCI would like to express our sincerest gratitude to the Task Force members all of whom volunteered their time and expertise, engaging wholeheartedly in the process. Their efforts have resulted in a thorough and complex analysis of an important area of social sustainability, and of the Better Cotton Standard System, and will serve BCI as we continue striving to create change. We are committed to pioneering innovative approaches to promote decent work conditions in cotton fields for workers and farmers alike, which would not be possible without strong engagement from diverse stakeholders.

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Better Cotton Sets Up Expert Task Force on Forced Labour and Decent Work

The Better Cotton Standard System is a holistic approach to sustainable cotton production which covers all three pillars of sustainability: social, environmental and economic, and addresses the many challenges of cotton production. One of the seven Better Cotton Principles and Criteria directly addresses Decent Work and forced labour specifically. Decent Work is defined as work which offers fair pay, security and equal opportunities for learning and progression, in an environment where people feel safe, respected, and able to express their concerns or negotiate better conditions.

In order to adapt and respond to Decent Work challenges in cotton farming, wherever such challenges may arise, BCI is actively engaged in dialogue on Decent Work and forced labour issues with our stakeholders, including civil society organisations, retailers and brands, and expert organisations.

Task Force on Forced Labour and Decent Work

BCI is currently working to strengthen Better Cotton Principle Six: Decent Work and has set up an expert Task Force on Forced Labour and Decent Work to review selected elements of the Better Cotton Standard System. Based on this review, the Task Force will produce recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the system in identifying, preventing, mitigating and remediating forced labour risks.

Task Force Members

The Task Force on Forced Labour and Decent Work brings together representatives from civil society, retailers, brands and consultancies with a strong expertise in human rights and forced labour issues in supply chains, particularly in the textile sector. The Task Force also draws on the expertise of a project adviser with a background in tackling the risks of child and forced labour in cotton harvests at the International Labour Organization.

Civil Society

  • Patricia Jurewicz, Founder and Vice President | Responsible Sourcing Network
  • Shelly Han, Chief of Staff & Director or Engagement | Fair Labour Association
  • Allison Gill, Cotton Campaign Coordinator | International Labor Rights Forum
  • Isabelle Rogers, Global Cotton Programme Manager | Solidaridad
  • Chloe Cranston, Business and Human Rights Manager | Anti-Slavery International
  • Komala Ramachandra, Senior Researcher | Human Rights Watch

Consultancies / Research Organisations

  • Rosey Hurst, Founder and Director | Impactt
  • Aarti Kapoor, Managing Director | Embode
  • Brett Dodge, Senior Consultant | Ergon

Retailers and Brands

  • Fiona Sadler, Head of Ethical Trade (will temporarily represent M&S) | Lydia Hopton, Ethical Trade Manager | M&S Clothing and Home
  • Aditi Wanchoo, Senior Manager – Development Partnerships Social & Environmental Affairs | adidas
  • Jason Tucker, Director of Labor Performance, Sustainable Manufacturing & Sourcing | Nike

Project Advisors

  • Stephen McClelland, Independent Senior Consultant

Find out more about the Task Force members here.

We will share updates on the progress of the Task Force as more information is available.

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Helping Farmers Promote Decent Work

All workers have the right to decent work – work that offers fair pay, security and equal opportunities for learning and progression, in an environment where people feel safe, respected, and able to express their concerns or negotiate better conditions.

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