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Human trafficking is a form of slavery that can include forced labor, debt bondage and sex trafficking. An egregious violation of human rights, human trafficking and slavery exist in every country with over 27 million victims worldwide. It is often invisible for people who do not look carefully.
Though we have a strong human rights record and no evidence of human trafficking in our supply chain, we were galvanized into addressing this issue more deeply when, on September 30, 2010, the State of California signed the California Transparency in Supply Chain Act (SB657) requiring companies with annual sales of $100 million or more that do business in California to disclose their effort in eradicating human trafficking and slavery from their supply chains. Similar antitrafficking laws are in progress nationally.
We see this as a positive trend propelling companies towards action and transparency. Free the Slaves, the largest antislavery organization in the US, believes that it is possible to end slavery in twenty-five years. To accomplish this, consumers must be engaged and brands must exert long-term effort and continuous attention. At EILEEN FISHER, we have engaged nonprofit partners to guide our efforts and we have reached out to like-minded companies to collaborate on change-making ideas. We cannot do this work alone.
How is EILEEN FISHER taking action?
We are keenly aware that conditions leading to human trafficking and slavery can exist in very subtle forms, such as the withholding of identity or travel documents and the charging of excessive recruitment fees. Therefore, we have made a company commitment to go deeper with both our auditing and our factory trainings. Our goal is to see if we can eliminate the root causes that can lead to human trafficking and slavery in our supply chain.
Our strategy was developed with our monitoring partners and nonprofit partners. It has five components:
Verification In 2011, we used the Fair Hiring Toolkit published by Verité, our long-time partner, to survey our suppliers on their recruitment practices and grievance systems, so that we can evaluate where we could be vulnerable to human trafficking and slavery in our supply chain. We have also provided our suppliers with a copy of their country laws in their native languages to underscore their legal responsibilities with regard to human trafficking.
Auditing Human trafficking is forbidden by both SA8000, the labor standard that we have followed since 1997, and ETI Base Code, which we adopted in 2011. We have reached out to our auditors--independent, third-party reviewers--to make sure that human trafficking is an important part of their audits. Audits are mostly conducted on an unannounced basis. To go beyond the items that their audits regularly cover--management interviews, worker interviews and health and safety walk-throughs--we are also conducting some mobile phone surveys in partnership with Good World Solutions to survey workers on the issue of human trafficking.
Certification We feel it is our responsibility, not that of our manufacturing partners, to certify that the fabrics, yarns and trims incorporated into our products were made in compliance with local laws regarding human trafficking and slavery. Prior to placing bulk orders, we ask questions that will help us target potential human rights issues and identify red flags. Our Social Consciousness Team works closely with our design and manufacturing teams to engage our mills and incorporate ethical sourcing into our fabric and yarn approval process.
Internal Accountability We have reiterated our zero tolerance for human trafficking to our suppliers and made it clear that if we discover a violation that cannot be resolved through remediation, we will have no choice but to end our relationship with the supplier.
Training To raise awareness about what can occur in the global supply chain, we have conducted a series of trainings with various partners to educate our employees, our Hong Kong sourcing agent and both the managers and workers at our factories. These sessions identify red flags and examine important root-cause factors of slavery and trafficking, including recruiting practices and migrant worker issues. We believe that by providing the people in our supply chain with the relevant knowledge and tools, they can act as change agents in their individual communities.
UL-STR partnered with us to host training sessions at our headquarters in Irvington, New York, at our Creative Center in New York City and also at the offices of our sourcing and production agent in Hong Kong.
Ethical Trading Initiative worked with us to conduct an additional series of internal trainings.
Verité, our long-time partner, conducted trainings at our factories in China. Managers attended mandatory sessions on human trafficking and slavery that focused on recruitment and grievance systems. Factory worker trainings covered how to get help for anyone in a compromised situation.
Taking Action For many years, we have hosted events in our stores and funded organizations working on human trafficking at the grassroots level. These activities and donations help raise awareness of the issue of human trafficking among our customers, our store teams and our employees. Below are some of our partners: