Our key takeaway: The food and beverage sector is integral to the global economy, making up almost two-thirds of all jobs. Yet a significant percentage of workers in the sector are in situations of exploitation and abuse. According to the International Labour Organisation, “there are currently 27.6 million people in situations of forced labour in the world, with 13% of adult forced labour exploitation occurring in agriculture.” Why is this the case? The report highlights the nature of work in the food and beverage sector in the context of intersecting polycrises such as the climate and humanitarian crises as drivers of forced labour throughout supply chains. The sector employs primarily migrant and seasonal workers in upstream supply chains due to the labour-intensive and low-skilled nature of work. Migrant workers are already vulnerable due to the lack of labour and social protections in receiving countries and they are more often than not subjected to exploitative practices such as recruitment fees, long hours and low wages. Polycrises compound these existing vulnerabilities to put already vulnerable workers in even more dire situations. For instance, the climate crisis will reduce crop yields in certain regions of the world which forces workers to work longer hours to make up the shortfall in wages. What can companies do? They can implement robust human rights due diligence (HRDD) processes as expected under the UN Guiding Principles. This encompasses centring worker voice at all stages of HRDD, including in the identification of forced labour risks and the development of remedial actions; reporting on the outcomes of efforts to tackle forced labour; and assessing how polycrises will exacerbate forced labour risks and impacts now and in the future.
KnowTheChain has published 2023 Food & beverage Benchmark Findings Report (July 2023):