Respecting workers’ rights: New Accountability Framework Guidance
24 August 2021
As companies set and implement commitments to halt deforestation and ecosystem conversion, it is critical that they also address the rights and wellbeing of the people working on the farms and forests in their supply chains.
By Karen Steer, AFi
As companies set and implement commitments to halt deforestation and ecosystem conversion, it is critical that they also address the rights and wellbeing of the people working on the farms and forests in their supply chains. This requires clear commitments, action and investment to address human rights issues such as child labour, forced labour, discrimination and a living wage.
By design, the Accountability Framework weaves together the environmental and social dimensions of responsible supply chains, recognizing the efficiencies that can be gained by addressing both in a coordinated manner. The Framework’s Core Principle 2.3 specifies what should be included in company commitments to respect workers’ rights, while Core Principles 3-12 describe the process and practices that companies should adopt to implement these commitments alongside their environmental commitments.
To support companies in implementing Core Principle 2.3, today the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) released new Operational Guidance on Workers’ Rights. This material complements existing AFi guidance that addresses human rights in the context of indigenous peoples, local communities and smallholders. Intended for companies at all stages of the value chain (including producers and processors, traders, and buyers), the new guidance outlines best practice for respecting workers’ rights within farm and forest operations, as well as company-wide, through integrated management systems and human rights due diligence.
Recognizing the valuable contributions that human rights organizations have already made on these topics, the new guidance highlights and synthesizes internationally-recognized best practice on workers’ rights. The guidance is fully aligned with major pre-existing human rights instruments such as the ILO fundamental conventions and related guidance, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) human rights due diligence process, and the OECD Guidelines for Responsible Business Conduct. The guidance also highlights practical resources and reporting frameworks for companies to implement workers’ rights commitments and disclose their progress.
Like all of the Accountability Framework, the Operational Guidance on Workers’ Rights represents the consensus of the AFi’s diverse NGO Steering Group. Development of the guidance was led by AFi coalition members with expertise in workers’ rights.
Where to begin?
While many companies already have some policies and practices in place to safeguard the rights of workers, exploitative labour practices remain pervasive in the same supply chains that also pose risks for deforestation and ecosystem conversion. Even with guidance and resources to support companies in addressing workers’ rights issues, there often remains the question of “where to begin?” The AFi’s workers’ rights experts offer the following suggestions:
Watch our company training webinar to learn how to use the Accountability Framework to manage agricultural and forestry supply chains that respect workers’ rights.
Speakers from Nestlé, Oxfam, Proforest and Rainforest Alliance offer practical insights on how to establish policies, take action and report progress on workers’ rights – including through effective due diligence and supplier engagement.
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