A new report analyzing forced labor risks within the supply chains of 43 global apparel and footwear companies found discouraging performances, with two-thirds of the companies having a low ranking with an overall score below 50 out of 100, and nearly a quarter scoring below 10 out of 100.
The 2018 Apparel and Footwear Benchmark, published by Know the Chain, found that luxury companies LVMH, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Prada all scored below 15/100, while footwear companies Skechers and Foot Locker earned 7 and 12 out of 100, respectively. Star performers included Adidas in the number-one spot with a score of 92/100, Lululemon at 89/100 and Gap Inc. at 75/100.
Overall, the report gave the apparel and footwear industry an average score of 37/100.
The benchmark assesses companies across seven themes “developed to capture the key areas where companies need to take action to eradicate forced labor from their supply chains,” Know the Chain said on its website, with each theme weighted equally to give the company an overall score on a scale from zero to 100. Themes include commitment and governance; traceability and risk assessment; purchasing practices; recruitment; worker voice; monitoring; and remedy, which assesses a company’s corrective action plans.
According to Know the Chain, the apparel and footwear industries are becoming progressively more reliant on migrant workers, who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation due to their status. Know the Chain said these workers can have their passports taken, be cut off from their homes or families, be forced to work for little to no pay, and be “deprived of opportunities for recourse” at companies that do not have preventative measures in place.
Of particular concern was the issue of workers being charged recruitment fees to work, in amounts so high that they become caught in an involuntary bondage of debt. The report found 18 companies received a score of zero out of 100 on recruitment, the theme measuring a company’s approach to reducing the risk of exploitation of workers by recruitment agencies, eliminating working fees during the recruitment processes, and protecting the rights of migrant workers.
The report found that stand-outs Adidas and Lululemon are the only companies that prevent exploitation by employment agencies by requiring the direct employment of workers in their supply chains. In a press release, Know the Chain said the two companies “also provided evidence that their grievance mechanism is accessible to and actively used by workers in the second tier of their supply chains.”