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Eradicating child and forced labour in supply chains: What lessons can be learned and what is the way forward?

There are currently 40 million people in modern slavery and 152 million children in child labour. Enhanced measures are necessary to achieve target 8.7 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which calls for immediate and effective action to end these unacceptable violations of human rights. Bridging the human rights governance gap in global supply chains will require simultaneous and mutually reinforcing efforts through all existing policy channels.

In addition to laws, sector-specific guidance and other tools, voluntary standards and certification schemes can be part of a “smart mix” to ensure corporate human rights due diligence. Reliable sustainability standards and certifications have the potential to support companies in combating child labour, forced labour and human trafficking. To do so, however, they must meet certain minimum requirements. That said, the individual corporate responsibility to respect human rights cannot be delegated to external service providers or membership organizations.

In this multi-stakeholder workshop, organised by Südwind Institute in cooperation with the International Labour Organization’s Alliance 8.7, we will discuss the potential and limitations of voluntary standard systems as well as linkages with regulatory systems. We want to debate the lessons learned for more credible standards and develop proposals to make them more effective. At the same time, we aim to show which measures beyond voluntary standards are necessary and how different instruments can be linked to enforce the protection of human rights along global supply chains.