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Consultation Workshop: Eliminating Modern Slavery and Trafficking within Companies and Supply Chains Outcome Report (2/13)

2019-05-21 18:11

On 13th February 2019, Global Compact Network Korea (GCNK) and the IOM Republic of Korea held a consultation workshop titled ‘Eliminating Modern Slavery and Trafficking within Companies and Supply Chains’ at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul. In the workshop attended by CSR and Human Rights Management personnel from both domestic and multinational companies, legal trends in human rights management—both domestic and overseas— were introduced with a focus on ethical recruitment. Best practices in a different industry, as well as risk management strategies applicable to domestic companies, were also discussed.

"All the products we use in daily lives, such as clothing and furniture, are manufactured through human labour”, said Park Mi-hyung, the Head of Office for IOM ROK, in a welcome speech. “The reputation as an 'ethical enterprise' is now among the key criteria for consumers’ choice of products, which means that it is time for companies to re-examine their workforce in supply chains related to the vast range of production processes.

Park Suk-Bum, Secretary General of the Global Compact Network Korea (GCNK) said, “there are currently about 1.3 million foreign nationals in Korea, of which 880 thousand are migrant workers. These migrant workers are still exposed to various human rights threats in the frontline without proper legal protection, despite playing a large part as a driver of economic growth. We hope this workshop to be a meaningful opportunity for companies to advance their human rights management and ethical recruitment."

The first speaker Kim Jae-won, Assistant Regional Director of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) Office in Hong Kong, introduced the activities of the ETI to promote workers' rights and improve working/labour conditions.

“One may think that modern slavery issues are not relevant for domestic companies, but it may be relevant for businesses within their supply chains; companies need to check how much their migrant workers have paid as an employment fee for being employed, because it may be the cause why migrant workers cannot quit due to the excessive fee they paid. Such a case is regarded as ‘forced labour’," said Kim Jae-won. “The crucial part in managing overseas supply chain is to inspect employment fees and prices for dispatch workers, temporary employees, and their subcontract prices.”

The following speaker Lee Eun-kyung, Chief/Senior Researcher at Global Compact Network Korea, discussed international trends in corporate human rights and socially responsible investments.

"Legalization and raising human rights management standards is dominant in the global trend. In Korea, many public enterprises and organizations have received recommendations following the publication of ‘Human Rights Management Manual’ as well as the inclusion of related issues into the public sector’s management evaluation. Many corporations are in the process of establishing Management Committee, conducting Human Rights Impact Assessment, and arranging remedial process, but at the same time facing challenges in where to start and whom to consult with." She also said, “human rights issues within supply chains are very much underlined in the international community. Apple, for example, is assessing high-risk impacts and systematically reacting to specific risk areas after the Foxconn scandal.”

Jho Kyung-jae, Deputy Director of National Human Rights Commission of Korea, gave a presentation on the role of state and business in human rights management. “Given the demands of investors and the international community, companies need to pursue human rights management in order to be competitive, and human rights violation may cause damages to institutional reputation followed by an immense amount of loss. Companies should, therefore, set their human rights management based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights."

The last speaker Maximilian Pottler, the Project Manager of the IOM Viet Nam Office, said, “the migration issue is becoming increasingly important. Twenty-five million people are moving worldwide, and one-quarter of victims of forced labour are international migrant workers. Without proper actions on due diligence, recruiting agencies will overcharge fees from migrant workers. Also often is the case that partner companies or employers are poorly managed due to lack of information." Then he introduced strategies and tools to lower the risk of forced labour in the workforce supply chain and improve labour productivity.

The Global Compact Network Korea is actively supporting companies for transparent and sustainable employment management and business practices. We are also planning human rights training programs and research projects for interested members in the upcoming months.

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