RHSF in the field

Experimenting with pilot solutions that combine innovation and pragmatism to act at the root of indecent work: this is where RHSF’s expertise lies.

There is currently no turnkey solution to the risks of child labour and forced labour in supply chains. RHSF is therefore experimenting with solutions to prevent the risks with its partner companies while developing awareness and training solutions to share and pass on its expertise widely.

Experiment with solutions

To prevent forced labour and child labour and thus contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8.7, RHSF has launched Lab 8.7, its operational solutions incubator.

With the support of committed companies and the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Lab 8.7 brings together pioneering players to invent and share  new solutions.

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We have shown that it is possible!

RHSF had an experience of total immersion in a Chinese textile factory for 2 years.

Awarded two international prizes, our experiment has proved that a sustainable improvement in working conditions is possible without reducing productivity and product quality.

Five years later, the system set up in this factory has enabled it to better cope with the coronavirus crisis.

This experimentation has led to the design of a first model of responsible human resources management, which will be reinforced and supplemented by our ongoing pilot projects.

Our experimentations

Drawing on the experience of the RHSF experts, who have been analysing the risks of child and forced labour in the field for more than 15 years, Lab 8.7 has defined 3 main guidelines for experiments in the supply chains of our partner companies up to 2025:

  • Protection of workers throughout the recruitment process, through fair recruitment channels,
  • Future education and skills in agriculture,
  • Responsible management of the workforce.

The experiments will make it possible to validate, with the support of academic experts and international organisations, operational solutions that will be  shared with  all the players concerned.

  • Costa Rica
  • China
  • France
  • Malaysia
  • Taiwan Province
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Findings

  • Forced labour and child labour remain prevalent in the countries to which French and European companies subcontract.
  • The problem is of a systemic nature. Legal workers and their families, in the case of family migrations, are highly exposed when they are foreigners and employed as low-skilled labour.

At the origin of these situations: contracts disconnected from reality, recruitment costs and various other costs leading to situations of debt bondage, constraints on workers, unprotected migration…

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Challenges

  • To change the economic model of recruitment, which currently relies only on the payment of fees by the worker and on unbearable amounts (from 6 to 30 months of salary in Taiwan for example, compared to 1 to 2 months in a traditional recruitment system).
  • To reintegrate the real cost of labour recruitment throughout the chain, taking into account the legitimate interests of all stakeholders and ensuring that each of the actors can make a decent living from their work as defined by the ILO.

Existing initiatives do not meet these challenges. When they succeed in making the employer bear the costs of recruitment, they do not question the system in place. In practice, the worker continues to pay fees, often under other names.

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Our answer

Overall objective: to prevent forced and child labour in the legal subcontracting chain through the implementation of a fair recruitment chain model that is profitable and sustainable for all stakeholders along the value chain.

Specific objectives: 

In the entire recruitment chain:

  • Establish a system that respects international law and local law if it is more favourable and is transparent to all.
  • Ensure that this system operates at a more economically rational cost (and not 30 months’ salary) borne by the actors recruiting the workforce.
  • Ensure the sustainability of the new virtuous system put in place: to ensure, effectively and sustainably, that practices for recruiting and managing workers are free of violations of fundamental rights.
  • Costa Rica
  • France
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Findings

  • Increasing difficulties in attracting and retaining young people in agriculture. In France, as in Costa Rica’s coffee cultivation, agriculture is faced with a shortage of labour. Faced with this situation, farmers have to recruit foreign seasonal workers and young people, who are particularly exposed to the risks of indecent work and even forced and child labour. These recruitment difficulties also entail other risks: impact on the dynamism of the sector, loss of unique traditional know-how.
  • Agriculture: a sector highly exposed to the risk of abusive child labour. Worldwide, agriculture is the sector most affected by child labour. In Costa Rica, the coffee sector is particularly affected. In France, although the situation is quite different, young seasonal workers or apprentices may be exposed to dangerous work, placing them in abusive labour situations.

These indecent work situations further alienate young people from the agricultural sector. We are faced with a vicious circle: loss of attractiveness and the risk of abusive work reinforce each other.

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Challenges

  • To develop or strengthen, in addition to existing structures, an educational and professional system that attracts and retains young people and women who are far from employment, in France as well as in Costa Rica.
  • In Costa Rica, preparing children for a future and enabling children and families to break out of the poverty cycle by supporting the development of food crops – in parallel with the actions carried out on remuneration and recruitment channels (see other experiments).
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Our answer

In Costa Rica and France, in a process of co-construction with local actors:

Overall objective: to develop locally, particularly for young people and women, future-oriented, accessible and attractive employment opportunities.

Specific objectives :

  • Analyse the agricultural know-how of the sectors and identify the skills and professions of the future,
  • To enable children to discover these skills and trades of the future, as well as ways to become self-sufficient,
  • Enabling young people and women to develop skills for the future.

To be able to activate all the levers, the “Education and skills for the future” experiments are conducted in association with the “Responsible human resources management” and “Fair recruitment channels” experiments.

  • Costa Rica
  • Malaysia
  • France
  • China
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Findings

All too often, in subcontracting chains, employers do not sufficiently perceive the risks of indecent work to which workers are exposed.

Accordingly,

  • Workers are subjected to serious harm, including damage to their health, or even forced labour, for example by paying intermediaries to get their jobs;
  • Employers’ practices encourage families to make their children work in order to earn the minimum subsistence wage (e.g. weight-based pay in agriculture, non-compliance with social security contributions, etc.).
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Challenges

In the 15 years of its involvement in the field, RHSF has identified 4 main risk factors at the root of all situations of forced labour and child labour. Located at the heart of human resources management, they concern :

  • the recruitment chain,
  • the remuneration system,
  • social dialogue,
  • health and safety at work.

These elements are so closely intertwined that attempts to solve the problem by dealing with them in isolation have failed. A holistic and cross-cutting approach is therefore needed.

With this in mind, Lab 8.7 is experimenting with a global method of responsible human resources management, based on its experimentation with fair recruitment channels (see other experiments).

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Our answer

Overall goal: to protect vulnerable workers from child and forced labour in a sustainable manner.

Specific objectives :

  • Raising awareness: Employers understand their impacts on the risks of indecent work, and the economic, social and environmental consequences that result;
  • Building the fundamentals: Employers test and validate a labour management approach that protects workers and families. The method applies to all key processes that impact on risk prevention: recruitment, remuneration, health and safety, social dialogue that includes a credible complaint system accessible to all workers.

Spread our expertise

RHSF shares its knowledge of the field and its expertise with all stakeholders (companies, trade unions, citizens, public players, etc.).

Because everyone has a role to play in ensuring that the fundamental rights of the workers behind our goods and services are respected. It is therefore necessary to raise awareness, train and disseminate solutions from the field.

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We have shown that it is possible

 In 2015, RHSF organised a drawing competition on forced labour sponsored by Plantu. The results were as follows:

  • 300 drawings from 45 different countries,
  • 20,000 people sensitised – from business leaders and workers to children and the most influential political figures (UN, Senate, ministers, Vatican…)

Our actions for:

To ensure better detection and prevention of the risks of human rights abuses, RHSF trains auditors, companies (buyers, CSR professionals, HR…), public and political actors and consumer associations.

The keys to our approach:

A field orientation and the implementation of knowledge through practical cases,

Training for professionals tested with companies, associations, representatives of institutions.

RHSF is preparing a second drawing competition on forced and child labour. More information coming soon.

Action in progress…

Consumers have increasingly high expectations of corporate social responsibility. RHSF has built partnerships with consumer associations to work on this lever. We will tell you more soon.

Discover the latest developments of our actions