2020: A Year in Review

A Selection of Our Notable Accomplishments in 2020

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread over the course of 2020, so too has the grave impact it has had on workers worldwide, especially migrant workers, “frontline workers,” and those with no choice but to continue working despite a lack of protection and support. Stating this fact can feel like a cliché, but we all must keep it in the forefront of our minds given it is the context in which many millions work today and will be for months to come, if not years, as the global workforce reels from massive unemployment and recession.

The challenges posed by the public health crisis and the recession it caused will be at the forefront of Verité’s efforts in 2021 and beyond. Job losses, increased downward pressure on wages and worker rights, supply chain disruptions, and foreign migrant workers abandoned and unpaid, often in living conditions that put them at risk of contracting COVID-19 are but a few of the issues our global community must surmount.

Typically at the end of a year, we at Verité ask ourselves two questions:

  • What did we do to further our vision of a world where people work under safe, fair, and legal conditions?
  • How did we fulfil our mission to provide the knowledge and tools to eliminate the most serious labor and human rights abuses in global supply chains?

This year, we answer these questions considering both how we have met the issues the pandemic presents and how we have fulfilled our mission despite the pandemic. Please join us in a review of selected notable projects from 2020.

We would like to thank all the governments, organizations, and companies we have had the privilege of working with over the past twelve months. This year, more so than ever, we wouldn’t be able to support our vision and realize our mission without your partnerships.

Wishing you all the best for 2021,

The Verité Team

A Request:
Verité’s ability to continue to share our knowledge and insights about how to effect change in global supply chains is directly dependent on tax-deductible donations and grants, so we respectfully request that you please donate to support Verité’s work and advance our vision in 2021.

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A Selection of Our Notable Accomplishments in 2020

Verité Reports on Forestry

Verité conducted exploratory research in Mozambique and Burma to document the ways in which environmental degradation tied to deforestation can worsen poverty and insecurity, and push people into exploitative labor conditions, including trafficking in persons. Findings from case studies on logging, agricultural plantations, and road construction document the root causes of labor risk associated with deforestation and provide steps stakeholders can take to reduce labor exploitation and environmental degradation.

In-Person and Remote Assessments

More than 230 Workplaces Assessed, most of which were conducted remotely with a focus on worker input. Verité redesigned its audit approach amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, preserving our in-depth, practical approach to assessments that brings real change to workplaces. Importantly, this includes continued commitment to reaching vulnerable worker populations remotely, with our assessment teams placing significant emphasis on worker input as the most critical component of our auditing work. Verité chooses to work with multinational corporations across countries and business sectors who have demonstrated a commitment to making lasting impact on the lives of workers. Our comprehensive, worker-centric approach to audits identifies risk in supply chains and offers practical recommendations to remedy problems and fight root causes.

SENDEROS (Pathways) Project

Verité launched a major new program in Mexico to promote and protect labor rights more effectively in the sugarcane and tobacco sectors. SENDEROS combines intensive rights training and access to grievance mechanisms for workers with closely coordinated efforts with both the Mexican government and the private sector to create a new approach to labor rights compliance in the agricultural sector that has long experienced poor working conditions.

Buyers and Supplier Trainings and Webinars

For commercial teams and suppliers, we ran a series of 1/2-day, 1-day and 2-day remote courses for those promoting change in apparel, electronics, seafood, agriculture, and other sectors. Our experts led customized sessions on:

  • Red flagging modern slavery risk indicators (buyers and suppliers)
  • Supply chain due diligence: risk screening (for buyers)
  • Labor supply chain due diligence: broker screening and management(for suppliers
  • Root cause analysis and corrective action management (for suppliers)
  • Internal monitoring and action planning (for suppliers)

To find out more, email training@verite.org.

Toolkit on Fair Hiring in the Mexican Agricultural Sector

 In partnership with the ILO and Alianza Hortofrutícola Internacional para el Fomento de la Responsabilidad Social (AHIFORES), known in English as the International Fruit and Vegetable Alliance for Social Responsibility, with funding from the European Union, Verité co-developed a toolkit and training courses to support Mexican producers’ efforts to promote ethical recruitment on their farms, based on national laws and international standards.

COVID-19 Guidance Resources

In the spring, we began offering guidance to companies to support their efforts to safeguard workers’ rights in their supply chains. This series of articles included memos on “COVID-19 in the Coffee Sector,” “Challenges and Recommendations for Workplaces Open During the Pandemic,” and “Guiding Principles for Responsible Businesses During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” as well as case studies on “African Migrants in the Strawberry Fields and Greenhouses in Spain” and “How Verité China Responded to the Changing Needs of Suppliers Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” among other resources.

CUMULUS Forced Labor Screen™

Nearly two years since the platform’s launch, approximately 250 employer entities have been screened for forced labor risk or are in process. Of those, data from 150 employers and several hundred of their recruitment agents — accounting for the recruitment of 51,500 foreign migrant workers from 45 different countries — is on the CUMULUS platform and available to their buyers and stakeholders. Some of these employers have now completed a second risk screening, and findings from this subset indicate that those that have recruited new cohorts of foreign workers have begun to establish agency relationships, systems, and processes that are foundational to fully absorbing the true cost of ethical recruitment — and, significantly, to holding their recruitment agents and other intermediaries accountable for ensuring that workers are not charged for their jobs.

COFFEE Project

The three-year Cooperation On Fair, Free, Equitable Employment (COFFEE) Project involves the creation of a robust toolkit on improving labor conditions in the coffee sector, as well as trainings and guidance on implementation of the toolkit, and three pilot projects. The Socially Sustainable Sourcing Toolkit (S3T) has been drafted and refined by the project’s Expert Committee (comprised of CSOs, IGOs, academics, certifiers, and other experts on sustainability, labor, and the coffee sector). An Advisory Council of coffee company representatives will provide targeted feedback within a user-oriented framework by February 2021.The three pilot projects will seek to: promote ethical labor recruitment in Brazil; address risks related to piece-rate pay among women and Venezuelan immigrants in Colombia; and build the capacity of coffee producers, field technicians, and agronomists to identify and address labor risks in Mexico. The project in Brazil is already underway, while the projects in Colombia and Mexico will begin in the first half of 2021.


2020 Policy Work

Verité’s Supply Chain Expertise in Policy Conversations. In many countries, the need for expert input into policymaking is greater than ever, as multiple regulatory approaches are being implemented or considered for global supply chain due diligence and transparency around the issues of forced labor, child labor, and a range of other human rights abuses and sustainability challenges. Civil society organizations, like Verité, with practical experience in the functioning of diverse supply chains and on-the-ground impacts of policy approaches have an important contribution to make to these conversations. To support the evolution of policymaking on these crucial issues, throughout the year, Verité has shared our supply chain expertise in coalition with other civil society groups at conferences, panels, and roundtables, including our membership in the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) and in bilateral or multi-stakeholder discussions with foreign governments; UN agencies such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM); and U.S. government agencies and departments, including the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Department of Defense; among many others.


Advanced Auditor Skills Training

We retooled our signature auditor investigative skills workshops for remote delivery and ran a number of highly praised courses this year. We’re blending self-paced homework with interactive zoom sessions run by our most senior trainers who have themselves audited for a decade or more. Participants are divided into “audit teams” and presented with the challenges faced in actual audits, from incomplete or contradictory factory documents to resistant managers and labor agents to highly vulnerable and fearful workers. The remote assessment process, including identifying management system gaps and validating critical human rights abuses, replicates the current state of social auditing in the COVID-19 era.

For details and specific dates, please visit our Training page in the new year or read the Training section in future newsletters.

Ghana Forced Labor Indicators Project (FLIP)

Throughout 2020, the Forced Labor Indicators Project continued its productive collaboration with stakeholders from the government of Ghana, the private sector, trade unions, and civil society organizations. Among FLIP’s many accomplishments in 2020 was an active slate of trainings for diverse stakeholders on how the ILO forced labor indicators approach can be used to prevent, identify, and address forced labor. FLIP also developed a Training of Trainers (ToT) curriculum on forced labor and held a 6-week online ToT for 10 labor inspectors from the Labour Department of the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations. The ToT curriculum was developed in collaboration with the Labour Department and will become an institutionalized training program for inspectors. Additionally, FLIP launched two free online learning courses on “Forced Labour Frameworks” and “ILO Forced Labour Indicators” which are available to any organization or individual interested in gaining insight into the best practices for identifying forced labor. 

Fishermen cast their nets

2020 Conferences and Articles

We Shared Our Expertise Widely on issues such as Forced Labor, Child Labor, and Ethical Recruitment, among others. Verité employees participated in virtual conferences and on panels throughout the year, including the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons event 20 Years After: Implementing and Going Beyond the Palermo Protocol; Investor Briefing: The Importance of Responsible Recruitment in Assessing Modern Slavery Risk, sponsored by the Investor Alliance for Human Rights; Responding to COVID-19: What Can Companies Do to Promote Responsible Recovery?, sponsored by the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery; the SOLD Virtual Conference on Human Trafficking and Exploitation; the Freedom from Slavery Forum; the C20 Summit; Stronger Together US; Global Initiative’s The Impact: Coronavirus and Organized Crime; and the Cooler Earth Sustainability Conference, among others. We also provided articles to numerous publications and websites, including “What the Sustainability Movement Means for Disrupted Retailers” on Digital Commerce 360, What Can Construction Teams and Manufacturers/Importers Do” in Grace Farm’s Design for Freedom report on slavery in the construction sector, “Cacao: Remonter la Filière Pour Lutter Contre le Travail des Enfants” in Diplomatie, “Verité’s Recommendations for Green Coffee Buyers During COVID-19” in Daily Coffee News, and “COVID-19 and Child Labor” in Global Child Forum.