FishWise at the Boston Seafood Expo – Tools for Businesses to Understand and Prevent Human Rights Abuses
Photo credit: Mariah Boyle
Government actions to prevent human trafficking and labor abuses – in the United States and around the globe – have increased since 2000, as has media coverage and public interest. Acts such as the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act and the UK Modern Slavery Act now require corporations to publicly disclose what measures they are taking to prevent human trafficking in their own supply chains. In addition to a legislative focus on anti-human trafficking, public scrutiny has also increased. The Guardian, Associated Press, and The New York Times have all published reports focusing on trafficking and forced labor in the seafood industry. As media scrutiny of human rights abuses in global supply chains increases, it is important to tap into the growing government, industry, and public awareness of these issues. Working collectively towards solutions will enable businesses to better understand and support human rights in their supply chains.
At the North America Seafood Expo, FishWise joined representatives from Humanity United, Verite, and Seafish to discuss the latest tools for understanding human rights risks in the seafood sector’s supply chains. A few of the key tools discussed during the Seafood Expo session “New Tools for Seafood Businesses to Understand Human Rights Risks and Improve Social Compliance” are listed below.
Responsible Fishing Scheme
Seafish recently launched a new UK Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS). The RFS is a voluntary program which certifies vessels and their skipper for high standards of crew welfare and responsible catching practices. The program includes standards for auditing responsible and ethical practices on board fishing vessels, and helps businesses to confirm that socially responsible practices are in place on vessels – one of the least visible parts of the seafood supply chain.
Social Responsibility Risk Assessment
In addition to the Responsible Fishing Scheme, Seafish is partnering with Sustainable Fisheries Partnership and Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program to develop a tool for assessing risks related to social responsibility in fisheries. The tool will use public domain information to analyze risk for the “at sea” portion of wild-caught fisheries’ seafood supply chains. The tool’s launch will be especially exciting for businesses, marking the first publicly available assessment of social responsibility for fisheries.
Responsible Sourcing Tool
In a few weeks, Verite and the Department of State will launch a responsible sourcing tool which will provide modes for how businesses can cascade responsibility down their supply chains. This tool will address how to build out a management system focused on continual improvement, benchmarks for employment, wages, recruitment practices, screening labor recruiters, and other practices for sustainable businesses. Since many of the emerging regulatory and legal provisions require this supply chain responsibility, the tool will be a vital resource for businesses.
With better visibility into their supply chains, companies can begin to link the workers to other parts of supply chain management. The range of practical tools available to companies expands when indicators of forced labor and trafficking are layered onto existing sustainability tools. Worker-focused systems like labor grievance mechanisms, hotlines, and worker polling provide visibility into working conditions and can help companies understand whether labor protections are in place and functioning. Organizations like Project Issara, Labor Voices, and LaborLink use hotlines and polling to push worker information up the supply chain, allowing businesses to understand labor conditions and opportunities for improvements in real time.
For more information on human rights resources, visit FishWise’s website.