Fair Hiring Toolkit \ Brands
6. Multi-Stakeholder & Multi-Brand Engagement

Tool 2:

Case Studies in Multi-Stakeholder and Multi-Brand Engagement

How can companies respond to the risk of recruiter-induced forced labor and human trafficking through multi-stakeholder engagement in their own unique country and sector? The case studies below illustrate specific examples of how some companies have responded to situations of exploitation and risk in their supply chains with practical engagement and partnerships.


In October 2007, media in the United Kingdom reported that migrant children were working in slave-like conditions in India, at sub-contractor facilities making garments destined for GapKids.

Domestic or “internal” trafficking of persons, especially children, has been increasingly documented in the Indian garment sector in recent years. In the National Capital Region of India, children from impoverished rural areas are actively recruited by labor recruiters to work in sub-contracted garment units where labor intensive functions like embroidery and handwork are performed. These children work in conditions of virtual enslavement.

In response to these abuses, the Gap launched a comprehensive program to monitor and improve working conditions at sub-contracted facilities producing embroidered handwork on garments. It initiated a series of internal policy and procedural reforms to improve supply chain tracking and monitoring, and established new limitations on the use of sub-contracting by suppliers. Recognizing that its impact could be amplified through collaboration, the company also began to work closely with other stakeholders and organizations to address these issues systematically by:

  • Working with local and global civil society groups to improve its own monitoring programs and develop procedures for assessing the working conditions for sub-contracted workers;
  • Cooperating closely with local child advocacy organizations and the Indian government to ensure that child victims of forced labor and trafficking were cared for and reunited with their families;
  • Co-hosting an industry-wide, multi-stakeholder workshop on forced labor and child trafficking in the apparel industry supply chain with the Indian government; and
  • Sponsoring the establishment of a permanent multi-stakeholder think tank, coordinated by the Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development, to promote public—private partnerships in the fight against human trafficking.

Coordinating with other stakeholders allowed the Gap to more effectively and sustainably protect against forced and child labor in its supply chain, while also situating Gap as a thought- and action leader in this arena. Because Gap took the lead in initiating these partnerships, solutions and outcomes were tailored to the specificities of their supply chain.

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Following high-profile advocacy from civil society groups and several media reports alleging the use of child labor in cocoa production in West Africa, the international confectionary industry and the Governments of Ghana, Côte D’Ivoire (CDI) and the United States signed the Harkin-Engel Protocol in 2001. The Protocol committed industry groups to identifying and eliminating labor abuses in the cocoa industry supply chain. As part of this agreement, the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) was established in 2002.

The ICI is a multi-stakeholder initiative that includes both private industry (brands and cocoa processors) with civil society (trade unions and NGOs). The ICI’s Board of Directors includes industry representatives such as Kraft, Nestle, Mars and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) alongside anti-slavery and labor organizations such as Free the Slaves and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). The ICI works at the national, industry and community levels to strengthen each stakeholders work through awareness raising, policy advocacy, and capacity building.

The results of the ICI since its founding have resulted in large scale outcomes from the original investment. For example, the ICI has held 7,000 community mobilization meetings, reaching out to over 250,000 community members and trained more than 1,600 involved citizens on forced labor and human trafficking. Further, it worked with local governments and communities to implement Community Action Plans designed to sustainably reduce to vulnerability of children to the worst forms of child labor.

None of these tasks could have been accomplished by any one stakeholder working in isolation. The partnership approach allowed the brands involved to impact cocoa communities in a more meaningful, comprehensive way than a series of uncoordinated, possibly duplicated efforts, from individual companies.

A multi-stakeholder approach also characterized the International Cocoa Verification Board (ICVB), which was convened by Verité in December 2007. This non-profit Board faced the task of overseeing the third party independent verification of data concerning the extent of forced and child labor in Ghana and CDI. Prior to the formation of the multi-stakeholder board, discussions around verification were characterized by conflict and heated debate. Bringing stakeholders from industry, civil society and government to the same table allowed for open and transparent engagement between all parties, and the Board successfully tackled complex issues in the verification process. Without this forum for dialogue, verification efforts may have been defeated by lack of communication. Instead, the Board succeeded in keeping the well-being of cocoa farmers and their families at the forefront of all efforts.

Groups such as the ICI and the ICVB played critical a role in advancing the goals of the Harkin Engel protocol, and paved the way for the follow-up 2010 Framework of Action, by bringing stakeholders together rather than maintaining the status quo of isolated stakeholders working in opposition.

Further Resources:

Related Tools: Encouraging Multi-Stakeholder and Multi-Brand Engagement  and
A List of Multi-Brand and Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives