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New Forced Labour Indicators tool from Sedex empowers businesses to tackle forced labour risks in supply chains

·4 min read

A new data tool from responsible business organisation Sedex highlights operational practices that indicate forced labour could be occurring at a worksite. The Forced Labour Indicators tool enables businesses to better identify potential instances of forced labour in their supply chains, supporting them to prevent and remedy this form of exploitation.


- Forced labour is a severe human rights abuse and form of labour exploitation. It is a critical issue for companies and can occur in any supply chain. The International Labour Organization estimates 24.9 million victims of forced labour globally.

- Forced labour is notoriously difficult to detect. Businesses need effective tools to help them address forced labour risks in their supply chain.

- The Forced Labour Indicators tool uses audit and risk data to draw attention to where forced labour is or could be an issue in a supply chain.

LONDON, May 17, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Responsible business organisation Sedex have announced their latest technology tool to support businesses in efforts to assess the risk of forced labour and combat human rights issues in supply chains.

Forced labour is a severe human rights abuse and the most extreme form of labour exploitation. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 24.9 million people worldwide are victims of forced labour[i], with women and girls accounting for 58%.

This can make forced labour a salient issue for many companies where the risk is high – different countries, sectors and worker groups within sourcing operations present various levels of risk. In Sedex's risk tool, 40 countries indicate as "high risk" for forced labour.

Forced labour is notoriously difficult to detect. Businesses need effective tools, technology and insights to help them identify, remedy and prevent this critical issue in their supply chains.

The Sedex Forced Labour Indicators tool uses data on sites in members' supply chains to draw attention to operational indicators of forced labour. These indicators can – independently or in combination – signify a risk of forced labour for workers.

"Sedex's mission is to help businesses improve working conditions and eliminate worker exploitation throughout their supply chains. Forced labour is extremely difficult to identify, but data is our ally here. Our Forced Labour Indicators tool is valuable in helping businesses with this challenging task, enabling them to prioritise taking action where the risks of forced labour are highest."
Simon McCalla, CEO, Sedex

Identifying risks with the Forced Labour Indicators tool

The tool is part of Sedex's risk assessment solution. It draws on issues (non-compliances) and observations raised during audits of sites within a supply chain to identify practices associated with a risk of forced labour.

These forced labour indicators are defined by the International Labour Organization[ii]. They include practices such as retention of identity documents, excessive overtime, deception and restriction of movement.

The strength and number of indicators identified at a specific site are used to calculate a risk score out of 10. This is combined with additional information to help businesses understand the level of risk – such as the risk of forced labour within the site's country and sector, or the presence of more vulnerable groups of workers, such as migrants.

The presence of an indicator does not necessarily mean that forced labour exists at a site; they are provided as a sign that there is an increased risk that requires investigation.

The tool also includes a custom Forced Labour Risk Index developed by labour and human rights experts Ergon for Sedex. This assesses risks for four economic sectors (agriculture, food processing, manufacturing and logistics) within 248 countries.

"Sedex's tools support companies to better understand their supply chains from a human rights perspective. We appreciate the opportunity to work with Sedex on refining and improving forced labour data frameworks."
The Mekong Club

Learn more about the Forced Labour Indicators tool

Notes to editors

About Sedex
Sedex is a world leader in responsible sourcing and empowers companies to implement responsible business practices and policies in their business and supply chain to build responsible supply chains.

Sedex provides businesses with the tools, technology and insights needed to operate ethically, source responsibly and work with their suppliers to create fair working conditions for the people who make their products and services. Over 60,000 businesses use Sedex to manage business risk, meet compliance and drive positive impacts for people and the environment. Visit our website for more information.

About The Mekong Club
The Mekong Club is a Hong Kong-based NGO that works with businesses to advance their anti-slavery response. The Mekong Club supported development of Sedex's risk assessment tool in 2020.

About Ergon Associates
Ergon Associates is a trusted advisor promoting respect for labour standards and human rights. They provide strategic advisory services and innovative research, and support development of Sedex's risk tool.

i https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/lang--en/index.htm
ii https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/publications/WCMS_203832/lang--en/index.htm