Seeing slavery in seafood supply chains

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Science Advances  25 Jul 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 7, e1701833
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701833


The seafood supply chain is often long and fragmented, and slavery is a tenacious problem. The vast majority of workers are engaged in the early stages of production and often employed through subcontracts or brokers. We hypothesized that food companies could identify risks and implement improvements by adding a labor safety dimension to their tracking and traceability systems. We designed a five-point framework—the Labor Safe Screen—and tested it for 118 products. The framework combines the use of technology in existing platforms with the collection of industry data and authoritative human rights data. Eighteen food companies used three or more components of the framework and systematically documented their supply chains, engaged suppliers, and cross-checked results. The companies were able to identify areas where working conditions met minimum principles, were unknown, or were inadequate. Three companies also incorporated direct worker feedback to focus resources and improve working conditions. We conclude that food companies can effectively and efficiently assess and reduce risks of forced labor in seafood supply chains—not to claim “no slavery” but to greatly improve their awareness of the labor conditions in the making of the products they trade and to identify feasible targets for further diligence and remedies.

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