6. Multi-Stakeholder & Multi-Brand Engagement

Fair Hiring Toolkit for Brands

Step 6. Multi-Stakeholder & Multi-Brand Engagement

Forced labor and human trafficking are complex issues that brands working on their own cannot solve. When taking action against these forms of abuse, it is advisable to work closely with other peer companies and stakeholders. Operating in this way – for example through multi-brand or multi-stakeholder initiatives – will only strengthen brand engagement, making it more effective and sustainable. It can also bring mutual benefit to the different partners, reducing inefficiencies, avoiding costly duplication, and sharing key lessons and strategies for overcoming supply chain challenges.

Engagement and partnership can take many forms. Brands can participate in industry-wide, cross-sectoral or multi-stakeholder organizations, or they can seek out direct partnerships with other groups and companies. They can operate formally, for example through memberships, affiliation and agreements; or more informally, through networks, communications and bilateral exchange and consultation. Industry associations, employer organizations, business partners, NGOs, trade unions and different agencies of the UN are all potential partners for brands.

To get started, the tools and links provided in this section give you an overview of how brands can engage other stakeholders, and why. They provide two case studies that illustrate good practice examples of joint engagement and a summary of key multi-brand and multi-stakeholder initiatives addressing labor rights abuse in global supply chains. 

TOOL 1: Encouraging Multi-Stakeholder and Multi-Brand Engagement

For brands that want to take action to protect migrant workers from recruiter-induced vulnerability to forced labor and human trafficking, in their own operations and across their supply chains, there is no shortage of potential for engagement. Brands are in a unique position to take effective action on many fronts, including policy development, internal capacity building and public policy advocacy.

Brands that want to reach out and work in cooperation with other stakeholders to broaden their impact also have many options. These engagements can be flexible to the needs of the brand and the realities of the supply chain: for example, a bilateral partnership with a civil society group, or ongoing involvement in a multi-stakeholder initiative (MSI). Joint actions like multi-brand or multi-stakeholder partnerships amplify impact and create sustainable opportunities to combat some of the worst forms of abuse in global supply chains. As the UN Global Compact has noted, participating in a strong multi-stakeholder initiative can be a means to develop a “broader, more comprehensive response to the problem of forced labor.”


(see Tool 3 of this section for descriptions of each initiative)

  • Business Social Compliance Initiative
  • Business for Social Responsibility
  • Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition
  • End Human Trafficking Now! Campaign
  • Ethical Trading Initiative
  • Fair Labor Association
  • Fair Wear Foundation
  • Forest Stewardship Council
  • Global Reporting Initiative
  • Global Social Compliance Program
  • Institute for Human Rights and Business
  • International Confederation of Private Employment Agencies
  • International Cocoa Initiative
  • International Trade Union
  • Confederation/Anti-­‐Slavery International
  • Kimberly Process
  • Madison Dialogue
  • Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
  • Social Accountability International
  • United Nations Global Compact
  • United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking

Engaged brands can do a lot in the fight against forced labor and human trafficking in their supply chains. But with limited resources, they can’t do it all on their own. Multi-stakeholder and multi-brand engagements offer important opportunities for joint action in the fight against forced labor and human trafficking by offering brands:

  • An opportunity to learn from others about good practice and what works and what doesn’t within a specific sector or across industries, to avoid reinventing the wheel;
  • A chance to gain more accurate information about conditions facing migrant workers within a particular country or region;
  • A forum for multi-brand or industry-wide training and capacity building;
  • A place to find solutions to complex challenges and issues; and
  • A collective platform from which to advocate for legal, policy or regulatory reform to improve social compliance dimensions of a given business environment (e.g., the strengthening of local law and public enforcement mechanisms).

Each brand’s specific needs will be different. But through multi-stakeholder or multi-brand initiatives, brands can work towards addressing ‘big picture’ issues like legal and regulatory requirements that can produce large impacts but are difficult to tackle without effective partnerships.

In considering joint action and the partnership approach, brands may choose to work with a variety of potential partners, including:

  • Other brands operating within the same or related industries;
  • Business or employers’ organizations to which they hold membership;
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives;
  • Civil society groups such as human or labor rights organizations;
  • Trade unions; and/or
  • Public and governmental bodies, including international organizations.

Action can be taken at a variety of levels: national or local levels, the communities of operation for the company, the global supply chain, or even the commodity base of a particular industry. Whatever the geographic scope of action, a collaborative approach allows a brand push beyond its boundaries to address issues and problems in a more systematic and comprehensive way. The following forms of action can benefit from a multi-brand or multi-stakeholder approach:

  • Code of conduct and corporate policy development;
  • Internal and supply chain awareness raising and capacity building;
  • Policy implementation, assessment and compliance monitoring;
  • Transparency and communications campaigns;
  • Corrective and preventive action programs;
  • Public policy advocacy; and
  • Community-based engagement and public awareness campaigns. 

Brands have many options available to them in selecting other business or multi-stakeholder partnerships and programs. Examining existing partnerships can help brands envision their own initiatives. For example:

  • Microsoft has worked closely with the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) and the End Human Trafficking Now! (EHTN) Campaign to elaborate an eLearning tool for business on combating human trafficking.
  • Manpower Group was the first company to sign the Athens Ethical Principles of the EHTN! Campaign, which declare a “zero tolerance” policy to working with any entity that benefits from human trafficking. The company has also worked with the International Organization for Migration to combat human trafficking in Colombia by providing skills training and employment opportunities to internally displaced persons, primarily women and young people.
  • In partnership with the International Labor Organization, the US Council for International Business and the US Chamber of Commerce, the Coca Cola Company hosted a multi-stakeholder conference at its US headquarters in Atlanta on engaging business and addressing forced labor. This conference brought together 80 representatives of companies, employers’ organizations, officials from the US Departments of Labor and State, the ILO and civil society groups to share knowledge and experiences in combating forced labor.

In Focus: Forced Labor and Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives
A growing number of multi-brand and multi-stakeholder initiatives are addressing a combination of labor, human rights, and environmental standards in a variety of industries; but trafficking and forced labor issues may be only a relatively small item on these initiatives’ agendas.

For a more in-depth look at multi-brand and multi-stakeholder engagement against forced labor, see the Case Studies in this section of the Toolkit.

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.

Further Resources:


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: https://www.cocoainitiative.org

TOOL 3: A List of Multi-Brand and Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives

Better Cotton Initiative
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a multi-stakeholder group comprised of international brands and NGOs that aims to improve cotton-growing conditions through a product certification program. Currently, certification covers the harvest through gin stages. Certification standards include both environmental and social indicators, including a prohibition of forced labor, child labor and trafficking in the supply chain.

Business Social Compliance Initiative
The Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) includes over 600 companies that utilize BSCI’s common Code of Conduct, which prohibits child and forced labor. The BSCI provides companies with practical management, auditing tools and guidelines to implement the BSCI Code and monitor improvements of working conditions in the supply chain. Member companies are required to show improvement on 3.5 and 5.5 year cycles.

Business for Social Responsibility
Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) provides global member companies with consulting and research on issues such as environment, human rights, economic development, and governance. BSR’s Migration Linkages program aims to help companies address issues affecting international migrants in supply chains at local, regional and global levels. BSR recently developed a Migrant Worker Management Toolkit and a Good Practice Guide on Global Migration.

Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition
The Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) has published an industry code of conduct for companies in the global electronics and ICT supply chains to improve working and environmental conditions and promote ethical business practices. The Code of Conduct provides guidelines for performance and compliance with key CSR policies, including labor issues. EICC provides tools to audit compliance with the code, and helps companies report on progress.

End Human Trafficking Now! Campaign
End Human Trafficking Now! partners with the business community to eliminate human trafficking worldwide. It assists businesses in implementing internal and external programs to reduce human trafficking and has worked closely with Microsoft and the UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) to develop an eLearning tool to increase business awareness of the issue.

Ethical Trading Initiative
The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) is an alliance of companies, trade unions and civil society organizations. All corporate members of ETI agree to adopt the ETI Base Code of Labor Practice which is based on the standards of the International Labor Organization (ILO). ETI provides members with access to round tables for knowledge sharing, as well as trainings and tools.

Fair Labor Association
The Fair Labor Association (FLA) is an effort by companies, colleges, universities, and civil society organizations to improve working conditions in supply chain factories. The FLA has developed a Workplace Code of Conduct, based on ILO standards, and created a practical monitoring, remediation and verification process to achieve those standards. The FLA is a brand accountability system that places the onus on companies to voluntarily achieve the FLA’s labor standards in the factories that manufacture their products. Universities affiliated with the FLA ensure that the licensees supplying their licensed products manufacture or source those products from factories in which workers’ rights are protected.

Fair Wear Foundation
Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) is an international verification initiative focusing on labor standards in the garment sector. Governed by labor unions, NGOs and business associations, FWF verifies that its member companies implement the FWF Code of Labor Practices in their supply chains through process audits and verification.

Forest Stewardship Council
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a multi-stakeholder organization that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests through standard setting and independent certification and labeling of forest products. Forest Management (FM) certification requires that, in addition to compliance with national legislation and environmental guidelines, forest management protects against forced labor.

Global Reporting Initiative
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a multi-stakeholder network involving business, civil society, labor, academic and professional institutions that publishes a corporate social responsibility reporting framework for companies. Its aim is to mainstream transparency on environmental and social issues in supply chains. The framework sets out indicators that brands can use to measure and report their economic, environmental, and social performance – including indicators for measuring forced labor in the supply chain.

Global Social Compliance Program
The Global Social Compliance Program (GSCP) is a business driven coalition that aims to improve the sustainability of the supply base through efforts to develop a shared global approach. The GSCP’s objective is to develop a collaborative approach to remediation by taking the focus off compliance audits and concentrating efforts and resources on capacity building. To meet this goal the GSCP offers members knowledge sharing platforms and best practices, as well as reference tools and process guides.

International Cocoa Initiative
The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) is a partnership of companies, labor unions and NGOs that works to prevent child and forced labor in the West African cocoa supply chain through programmatic activities such as sensitization, training, and other community level micro-projects, with a particular focus on education. While the ICI is primarily community centered, it also works with producer governments and advocates for effective legislation at the national level to address child labor, forced labor and human trafficking.

Institute for Human Rights in Business
The Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) facilitates dialogue and provides analysis on issues relating to the role of business in human rights. Current research and dialogue includes a focus on strengthening protections for migrant workers in supply chains. IHRB works directly with business leaders, government officials and others to evaluate the effectiveness of current policies, operational practices and multi-stakeholder initiatives relevant to human rights. Its focus on protections for migrant workers includes a series of Roundtables for Collective Action that bring together brands, suppliers and recruitment agencies to identify key risk areas and principles of good practice.

International Confederation of Private Employment Agencies
The International Confederation of Private Employment Agencies (Ciett) works to promote the interests of the temporary agency work sector through promoting standards within the staffing industry. Ciett consists of 44 national federations of private employment agencies and seven of the largest staffing companies worldwide.

Kimberly Process (Diamonds)
The Kimberly Process is the largest international certifier of “conflict-free” diamonds. It uses a certification process that aims to prevent diamonds financing war or mined by forced labor from entering the market. It was created to ensure consumers that their purchases were not financing human rights abuses. Member countries are required to officially submit statistics that can be verified through audit. The World Diamond Council represents the international diamond industry in the Kimberley Process and has played a major role from the outset.

Madison Dialogue (Gold, Diamonds)
The Madison Dialogue is an industry-focused organization that seeks to build engagement in the gold and diamond supply chains through information sharing among companies, civil society groups and others seeking to encourage best practices, sustainable economic development, and verified sources of responsible gold, diamonds and other minerals.

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) brings together palm oil producers, processers, traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks, investors and civil society representatives to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil. In addition to environmental and management requirements, the standards specify that palm oil plantations must be compliant with the ILO standards on forced labor, child labor, and the fair treatment of migrant workers.

Social Accountability International
Social Accountability International (SAI) is a multi-stakeholder, standards setting organization whose mission is to advance the human rights of workers around the world. SAI provides capacity-building services for the implementation of its SA8000 standard – a recognized benchmark among voluntary codes and standards initiatives that employers can use to measure their own performance and responsibly manage their supply chains. SAI offers training in SA8000 and other workplace standards to managers, workers and auditors. It contracts with a global accreditation agency, Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS) that licenses and oversees auditing organizations to award certification to employers that comply with SA8000.

United Nations Global Compact
The United Nations Global Compact is a policy initiative for businesses interested in incorporating human rights, labor, environmental and anti-corruption principles into their operations and strategies. It aims to support business engagement in mainstreaming these principals in business operations worldwide, and encourages business support broader UN goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. In May 2008, a Global Compact Labor Working Group was established under the auspices of the Global Compact Board. It is jointly chaired by the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

For Governments
This section provides a tailored introduction to the materials for governments and public policy actors, including an overview of the most relevant tools and guidance with an explanation of how these tools can support the work of governments and other public policy actors. These tools complement national and international regulatory efforts to promote fair hiring, reign in abusive labor recruiter practices, and establish rigorous protections for migrant workers.
For Advocates
This section of Verité’s Fair Hiring Toolkit provides a tailored introduction to the materials for labor rights advocates and labor unionists. An overview of the most relevant tools and guidance is provided, with an explanation of how these tools can support their work. The tools provided here are broad and multi-faceted, providing guidance on a range of issues linked to forced labor and human trafficking. You are encouraged to explore the material provided here and discover how you can put it to use in your own work.
For Investors
This section provides a tailored introduction to the materials for investors. An overview of the most relevant tools and guidance is provided, with an explanation of how these tools can support the work of investors. These tools can support investor campaigns, corporate advocacy and dialogue, and investment analysis of risks of forced labor and human trafficking in company operations and supply chains.
For Auditors
This section of Verité’s Fair Hiring Toolkit provides a tailored introduction to the materials for social auditors and certifiers. An overview of the most relevant tools and guidance is provided, with an explanation of how these tools can support their work. The Toolkit is extensive and multi-faceted; it provides guidance on a range of issues. Auditors are encouraged to explore the complete set of materials provided.
For Multi-Stakeholders
This section provides a tailored introduction to the materials for multi-stakeholder and multi-brand initiatives. An overview of the most relevant tools and guidance is provided, with an explanation of how these tools can support the work of multi-stakeholder and multi-brand initiatives.



Humanity United LogoVerité gratefully acknowledges Humanity United for their generous support on this research and communications initiative.