RSN Updates

Read our updates to learn more about RSN’s work.

Monday
Jul272015

Trafficking in Persons Report Upgrades Uzbekistan Despite Continued Forced Labor

The Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report, released annually by the U.S. State Dept., has upgraded Uzbekistan from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List, despite the continued widespread practice of state-orchestrated forced labor in the cotton sector. It’s a short-sighted decision that gives a free pass to the Uzbek government. Growing pressure from brands and companies that have signed the Cotton Pledge make it clear to the Uzbek government that business-as-usual cannot continue.

The TiP report also maintained Turkmenistan, another Central Asian nation where the government is complicit in forced labor in the cotton sector, at Tier 2 Watch List. The Cotton Campaign, an RSN coalition partner, has released a report condemning the Turkmenistan’s government use of forced labor: click through to read the Cotton Campaign’s report on forced labor in Turkmenistan.

With pressure from consumers, brands, and the international community, the usage of forced labor is growing in awareness by the day. But when the State Dept. whitewashes human rights abuses, our ability to pressure the Uzbek and Turkmen governments for reforms is diminished.

See the full statement from RSN and the Cotton Campaign below, or view it on the Cotton Campaign website.

U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report 2015 - Upgrades and Downgrades | CNN

Click through to see larger version of image. SOURCE: CNN


Human Trafficking: U.S. Decisions Fails Forced Labor Victims

Uzbekistan placement supports state-sponsored forced labor

Washington, DC, July 27, 2015: Today the U.S. government upgraded the Uzbek government’s ranking in its 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report despite noting that “government-compelled forced labor of adults remains endemic.” The unwarranted decision decreases pressure on the authorities in Tashkent to end forced labor, said the Cotton Campaign in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.

“The failure to classify Uzbekistan properly is wholly inconsistent with the well-documented evidence of its systematic human rights abuse,” said Nadejda Ataeva, president at the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. “The U.S. effectively sent a message to Uzbek authorities that forced labor of millions of its citizens is cost-free.”

The Uzbek government continues to operate one of the largest state-orchestrated systems of forced labor in the world. Furthermore, authorities suppress any attempts by citizens to report on these abuses and continue to publicly deny the use of forced labor. In 2014, the government forced more than a million citizens to harvest cotton and farmers to grow cotton, all under threat of penalty. In only the first half of this year, the Uzbek government forced thousands of citizens to prepare cotton fields for planting, brutalized citizens attempting to document forced labor and deported an international labor expert simply for informing a legally registered human rights group about international labor conventions.

The TIP report cites a government decree reiterating its pre-existing law prohibiting child labor, fined school directors and farmers for child labor, and signed an agreement with the International Labour Organization. The report notes, however, that officials resorted to child labor “under pressure to fulfill government-decreed cotton quotas,” and forced labor is unlike human trafficking in other countries in that it is “government-compelled.” While a system of state-organized forced labor remains in place, the Uzbek government’s commitments and selective actions on child labor cannot be said to represent substantial efforts to comply with the TVPA minimum standards.

In its letter, the Cotton Campaign called on the U.S. to redouble its efforts to persuade the authorities in Tashkent to eliminate forced labor from the cotton sector. In particular, the United States should insist that the Uzbek authorities begin by instructing officials at all levels of government to refrain from using coercion to mobilize citizens to work in the cotton fields and prosecuting all officials who do; committing to an action plan to eradicate forced labor with the International Labour Organization; and permitting citizens and journalists, domestic and foreign, to report human rights violations in the cotton sector without fear of retaliation.

“The practice of forced labor in Uzbekistan has persisted for far too long and should be urgently ended,” said Umida Niyazova, director at the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights. “This year’s report missed a crucial opportunity to end this abominable practice sooner.”

Read the Cotton Campaign letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry here.

The Cotton Campaign is a global coalition of labor, human rights, investor and business organizations coalesced to end forced labor of children and adults in the cotton sector of Uzbekistan.

Tuesday
Jul072015

RSN Joins the Sustainable Apparel Coalition

Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN) is excited to announce that it has joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC).  SAC is a trade organization comprised of over 150 international brands, retailers, and manufacturers, among them adidas, C&A, Gap, H&M, Nike, Puma, Target, and VF Corporation. Members also include non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and government agencies. All of its members are committed to improving the sustainability and ethical sourcing of apparel and footwear.

Patricia Jurewicz, Director of Responsible Sourcing Network, stated, “We welcome the opportunity to formalize our relationship with SAC and support brand members on ensuring an ethical and sustainable value chain, all the way down to the dirt.”

RSN adds value to the work SAC is implementing. We will be working with SAC staff and members on the further development of the Higg Index, SAC’s sustainability measurement index. The Higg Index is an open source, indicator-based tool that can be used to evaluate materials, products, facilities, and processes based on environmental, social, and product design choices.

RSN will contribute to the development of the Higg index in relationship to social/labor indicators at the spinner and mill level of the value chain. This work will be coordinated with our new Spinner Verification Initiative.

“We welcome the addition of RSN to the Coalition, and look forward to its participation in this industry-wide effort in sustainability,” said Coalition CEO Jason Kibbey. “Having RSN as part of the Coalition widens the scope of our impact within the apparel industry and accelerates the change we’re making towards responsible industry actions.”

More information on SAC, the complete Higg Index, and a full list of members can be found at www.apparelcoalition.org

For SAC media inquiries, please contact info@apparelcoalition.org

For RSN media inquiries, please contact amontes@asyousow.org

Tuesday
Jun232015

Collaboration and Perseverance Pays Off

Patricia Jurewicz, Founder and Director of Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN), recently published Reducing Child Labor in Uzbekistan: Lessons Learned and Next Steps in the UC Davis Journal of International Law and Policy, Volume 21. The article is focused on the multiple efforts and various strategies many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), corporations, foundations, and other stakeholders implemented to greatly reduce forced child labor in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan.

The article underscores the remarkable achievement of almost completely eliminating the forced manual labor of children ages 7-15 to pick cotton. This decades-old exploitation has been orchestrated by the dictatorial Uzbek federal government throughout the entire country. RSN and other western stakeholders have been working to end this abuse since 2007 and are now turning their attention on ending the practice of forced labor of adults in cotton production in Uzbekistan, as well as neighboring Turkmenistan.

A few key highlights from the article:

  • The Uzbek government’s practice of forcing children between the ages of 7-15 to plant and pick cotton was greatly reduced, starting with the harvest of 2012 and continuing through 2014.
  • Approaches to replicate that contributed to this shift:
    • Used multiple strategies;
    • Coordinated activities;
    • Placed stories in publications close to the location of the abuse and in international media;
    • Involved international institutions and governments; and
    • Made available sufficient multi-year funding for the various NGOs involved in the campaign.
  • One of the next steps which RSN is focused on is establishing a verification system with yarn spinning mills so brands have assurance that Uzbek cotton is not entering their value chains.

Advocates committed to ending child labor in the harvesting and processing of other commodities can apply several or all of the strategies outlined in this article. Although the value chains of each good differ, they can all be mapped, with key points of leverage identified, and auditing systems established to move the market away from exploitative practices. If the energy and commitment of interested stakeholders can be coordinated, structured, and maintained over time, then eliminating this abusive practice worldwide is indeed possible.

The article is free to distribute and reprint with the citation: “Patricia Jurewicz, Reducing Child Labor in Uzbekistan: Lessons Learned and Next Steps, 21 U.C. Davis J. Int’l L. & Pol’y 191 (2015).” It is published on the UC Davis, Westlaw, and LexisNexis websites.

Thursday
Jun042015

New Companies, More Detailed Filings in Second Annual Conflict Mineral Disclosures

The deadline for the second annual conflict minerals disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was this Monday, June 1. Companies that file the annual disclosures are bringing much-needed transparency to a minerals trade that has been linked to human rights abuses in the war-torn region centered in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Responsible Sourcing Network congratulates the internal teams and firms that worked hard on this round of reporting. Now it is time to review the disclosures, and RSN has developed tools to do so, guided by the principle that social impact is a vital part of the value – and risk – investors and consumers expect companies to measure.

As of the June 1 deadline, 1,246 disclosures were in:

  • Of the 1,315 companies that filed last year 89.9% filed again. 64 companies filed for the first time.
  • 136 companies that filed in 2014 are still missing, although some may simply be running late. Last year, 143 companies filed after the reporting deadline.
  • So far the percentage of companies that filed the detailed Conflict Minerals Report, or “CMR” has risen, and 42 companies that filed only a Specialized Disclosure Form, or “Form SD” in 2014 expanded their disclosure to include the full CMR.

Special thanks to Yong H. Kim, Ross Business School at the University of Michigan, for this data.

Tracking Leadership in Four Areas

In 2014, companies were still learning what a good report looks like. Most of the filers covered in Mining the Disclosures, our recent pilot study of the 2014 SEC submissions, barely earned 50% of the available points, but leading companies set a pace for others to follow.

Mining the Disclosures introduced four Measurement Areas for evaluating conflict minerals reporting in regards to “social performance.” In Part one of this blog post, two of these Measurement Areas were introduced, highlighting best practices from Apple’s 2015 CMR. The tech giant earned praise from many quarters for filing its conflict mineral disclosure documents several months before the deadline. (Click here for Apple’s full CMR.)

Apple was among the top three performing companies in Mining the Disclosures. Intel and Qualcomm rounded out the top three. All three companies show continued leadership in the remaining two Measurement Areas, Assessing Exposure and Responding to Risk and Policies and Management Systems, in their 2015 conflict minerals reporting.

Assessing Exposure and Responding to Risk

Qualcomm gave a detailed description of which products require the use of conflict minerals, and divided these products into two groups based on relative impact on revenue. The company describes its supply chain in detail, and in plain language. It offered a very detailed description of its Reasonable Country of Origin Inquiry (RCOI) process, and also described its efforts to determine the origin of its conflict minerals with the greatest specificity possible. (Click here for Qualcomm’s full CMR.)

Policies and Management Systems

Intel has once again excelled in putting policies and management systems into place. In its Form SD, Intel has included the full text of its Conflict Minerals Sourcing Policy. Within the CMR, Intel describes its implementation of each OECD step, including internal management systems that reach all the way up to the Chief Executive Officer. (Click here for Intel’s full CMR.)

The other two Measurement Areas, Transparency and Reporting and Promoting a Conflict-Free Minerals Trade, are discussed in part one of this blog post.

Progress for Business and People

  • Business: Behind each one of the 1,246 Form SDs that have been filed so far is a team of people, a brand, and a business model, each attempting to meet the challenge of conflict minerals reporting. The U.S. requirement for conflict minerals due diligence is one of the biggest steps a government has ever taken to mandate “social reporting” and it won’t be the last. Investors will increasingly expect companies to respond to social risk and opportunity.
  • People: Most importantly, these conflict minerals disclosures bring us closer to a conflict-free minerals trade in the Congo. The demand from investors and consumers to source conflict-free flows up the supply chain, through factories and smelters, all the way back to mines in the DRC region. With persistence and innovation, this leverage will reduce the funding for armed groups and increase the number of local, conflict-free sources contributing to peace and prosperity in central Africa.
Friday
May292015

EU Parliament Votes to Expand Scope of Conflict Minerals Legislation to Reach 880,000 Companies

On May 20, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted to end the importation of conflict minerals into the European Union. In a vote of 400 votes to 285 with 7 abstentions, Parliament strengthened both the Commission’s original proposal and the proposal forwarded by the International Trade Committee. Parliament has instead opted for a scheme requiring mandatory compliance for “all Union importers” sourcing 3TG in conflict areas in addition to obligatory disclosure requirements detailing supply chain risk mitigation efforts for “downstream companies.” This scheme falls in line with a recent statement issued by global sustainable and responsible investors urging MEPs to expand the scope of the original proposal to include mandatory requirements for “downstream” (end-user) companies.

With this vote, MEPs have taken the opportunity to substantively and significantly advance the EU’s role in the growing campaign to promote responsible sourcing around the world. In the vote, MEPs opted for a strengthened scheme in which smelters, refiners and importers of 3TG must undertake supply chain due diligence and obtain an independent third-party audit validating these processes. Likewise, “downstream” companies associated with 3TG mineral sourcing will also be required to disclose information regarding the steps they have taken to identify and mitigate risk in their supply chains.

In a press release issued by the Group of the Progress Alliance of Socialists & Democrats, major proponents of a mandatory scheme, S&D President Gianni Pitella praised the vote.

“A special day to be proud of being European. We all won. Europe won. All those who fight for the respect of human rights beyond and over multinational interests have won. People of DR Congo and of all areas affected by war and violence today won. After a long and hard campaign, the S&D Group convinced the rest of EU Parliament to secure a legally binding scheme to ensure the traceability of minerals, to make sure that products sold in the EU do not fuel armed militias or foster human rights violations in conflict areas. We proved that the European Union cares about human rights and human dignity beyond empty declarations.”

In contrast to Dodd-Frank, the proposed law is global in its geographic scope rather than focused only on tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold sourced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and surrounding countries. If passed, the legislation could affect over 880,000 EU firms.

The European Parliament now enters into discussion with Member States and the Commission to come to a final agreement on the law. With obvious divisions demonstrated between parties, the negotiations going forward may prove very difficult.

It is our hope that the outcome of this vote will hold through negotiations with the Commission and Council so that mandatory supply chain due diligence requirements applicable to companies throughout the entire supply chain will pass into law. In compliment with US legislation, robust EU legislation will effectively generate global company due diligence activities in line with the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas. This will tangibly limit investor risk and increase legitimate extractive sector revenue streams in conflict-affected and high-risk areas, helping to bring an end to resource-related conflicts in the DRC and around the world.