Step 7. Public Policy Advocacy

Fair Hiring Toolkit for Brands

Step 7. Public Policy Advocacy

The presence of gaps in national legislation and global standards, and underdeveloped public infrastructure and multi-lateral cooperation, present a serious challenge to any social compliance effort.

To tackle these shortcomings, many brands are increasingly engaging in public policy advocacy at national and international levels.

Brands can engage public policy actors to encourage laws, regulations and enforcement that effectively protect migrant workers and regulate labor recruiters.

Brands can engage at national and international levels; individually or through employers’ associations or multi-brand or multi-stakeholder groups.

Given the global and regional character of labor migration and human trafficking, direct engagement with the UN and other international agencies such as the ILO and IOM is also growing.

The tools provided in this section will guide you through the case for policy advocacy and provide examples of good practice in engagement. The links highlight key international organizations that address forced labor and human trafficking through private sector engagement and public—private partnerships. 

TOOL 1: A Guide to Public Policy Advocacy

Public policy engagement by brands against forced labor, human trafficking and the worst forms of exploitation linked to international labor migration is emerging as a key form of engagement in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Companies – operating on their own or through representative business or employers’ organizations or other initiatives – are increasingly engaging governments at national levels in the sending and receiving countries where they do business and intergovernmental organizations like the agencies of the United Nations (UN). They bring their perspective to the policy and regulatory challenges they face in human rights, labor and migration fields, tackling concrete issues through policy dialogue, advocacy and public private partnerships.

At the international level, there are many examples of companies reaching out to the public sector to address issues of common concern. A key avenue for this engagement is the UN Global Compact, which provides companies with access to multi-stakeholder networks and participation opportunities around the world. Other key agencies across the UN system include the:

  • International Labor Organization (ILO), which sets and monitors international labor standards, including those related to forced labor, migration for employment and private employment agencies;
  • International Organization for Migration (IOM), which provides services and advice to governments and migrants on safe, humane and orderly migration; and the
  • UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT), which promotes the global fight against human trafficking on the basis of the UN Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons.

These organizations and their member States are responsible for the international regulatory framework that governs and gives structure to the labor, human rights and migration dimensions of the global economy. For many brands, they are the first port of call for addressing policy issues of particular concern.

Brands are also giving increasing attention to advocacy efforts at the national level. These are addressed to governments in the sending and receiving countries of migrant workers, where brands have extensive operations or a strong supply chain presence. Policy dialogue is addressed to developing stronger laws and regulations to govern labor recruiters where these are weak or non-existent, and the establishment of better protections for migrant workers, particularly in host counties. A robust public policy framework in both home and host nations is seen as a key element in reducing supply chain risks of forced labor and human trafficking.

The unregulated nature of the recruitment industry in many parts of the world and the lack of legal and regulatory protections available to migrant workers in host countries are among the key issues frequently addressed by brands in dialogue with public policy actors. Other key issues in policy dialogue include:

  • Restrictive policies that sometimes regulate residency permits and work visas, and effectively tie migrant workers to a single employer;
  • Restrictions in some countries that prohibit migrant workers from joining or forming trade unions;
  • Legal jurisdictions that require employers to withhold migrant workers’ travel documents or passports; and
  • Laws – or a lack thereof – regulating the charging of recruitment fees to workers.

Public policy engagement can take different forms: advocacy, awareness raising, even public private partnership. Brands have a number of options available to them to positively influence the social policy environment in which they operate, whether in home or host countries, or at the international level.

  • Brands can advocate at national level for ratification of relevant UN and ILO Conventions that have not been ratified by the countries in which they operate.
  • Brands can lobby sending and receiving countries to adopt better laws and enhanced protection for migrant workers by:
  • Supporting sending country governments in improving the legal and regulatory environment that governs labor recruiters and labor mobility, and ensuring adequate protection for migrants prior to their departure; and
  • Working with receiving country governments to improve laws and strengthen enforcement mechanisms to ensure protection of migrant workers on the job and in their adopted communities. 
  • Brands can encourage the adoption and enforcement of bilateral labor agreements between governments that extend labor and social protection to migrant workers. Such agreements facilitate better migration management by ensuring that it takes place according to agreed-upon principles and procedures.
  • Finally, brands can also consider direct participation in networks and forums for international and regional policy dialogue such as the Global Forum for Migration and Development.

In Focus: Examples of Brand Engagement

      • Hewlett Packard has taken a leading role in public forums advocating for business engagement against trafficking. It has raised awareness of the human and labor rights risks in the electronics industry linked to labor migration (for example, deception in recruitment, excessive recruitment fees, document retention and related limitations on freedom of movement), and on that basis represented the corporate sector at a special session of the UN General Assembly Thematic Debate on Human Trafficking in June 2008.
      • Manpower has worked closely with UN.GIFT, ILO and IOM at global, regional and national levels. It has played a key role in raising awareness about business action against human trafficking and, through CIETT, the recruitment industry’s international trade association, has strongly advocated for ratification of ILO Convention 181 on Private Employment Agencies. This is seen as a key step in setting minimum standards for the recruitment industry around the world.

To learn more about the international public policy environment addressing recruiter-induced forced labor, see Verité’s Policy Brief on the subject. This document provides an introduction and analysis of the key international standards and policy instruments that set the framework for international labor migration and address the twin abuses of forced labor and human trafficking.

TOOL 2: Making the Case for Joint Action in Public Policy Advocacy

In each opportunity for engagement on issues of public policy, you can ensure greater impact and sustainability in action by working with industry partners and peer companies, or collectively through a representative business or employers’ association.

Like individual companies, these organizations can lobby UN agencies and national governments for ratification of international Conventions, improvements to national laws and regulatory machinery, stronger public enforcement mechanisms and business representation in key public policy forums and networks.

Brands choosing to advocate through business associations may wish to do so at the national level, across their industry, or internationally. Each level of engagement has its benefits and challenges.

  • Operating nationally means taking action through your representative employers’ organization, or a chamber of commerce or industry group, or other multi-brand or multi-stakeholder initiative. Your membership in a representative employer’s organization means you have the right to engage its officers and secretariat to raise specific questions of concern to your company. Your employers’ organization should be involved in all domestic negotiations relating to the ratification of ILO and UN Conventions and the development or reform of relevant national legislation. It is your direct link to government on labor and public policy matters.
  • Taking action within your own industry means cooperating with peer companies through an industry association or multi-brand initiative. A common strategy, program or platform can be developed. Industry associations tend to be well-established at the national level in many countries around the world. At the international level, they have begun to develop in recent years, for example in the garments sector, electronic, toy manufacturing and other industries in order to tackle the policy issues raised by global supply chains, including forced labor and human trafficking. In both cases, a key element of their engagement is policy dialogue.
  • Finally, it is not uncommon for companies – in particular global brands – to focus their attention on international engagement. This can be done through employers’ representation at the International Labor Organization (ILO), for example, or it can be done through coordinated efforts by multi-brand initiatives at forums such as the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD). Membership in the UN Global Compact offers a similar opportunity. In each case, brands have a direct channel of communication to positively influence global policy dialogue through employer representation. They can effectively tackle the policy challenges they face in labor, migration and human rights through the established mechanisms of global governance.

In Focus
At the international level, there are a number of organizations that address the intersecting issues of forced labor, human trafficking, migration for employment and private employment agencies. Each of these could be considered as a potential target of policy engagement:

        • Global Forum on Migration & Development
        • International Labor Organization
        • International Organization for Migration
        • UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking
        • UN Global Compact
        • UN High Commission for Human Rights

The following tips can assist you in taking effective action at the national, industry or international level within an employer or industry association.

  • Consider raising awareness in your organization and consulting with other members to address forced labor, human trafficking and the risks they pose to business and migrant workers in the global economy. Organize a meeting or workshop on the issue to discuss how it can best be addressed by the organization, in particular through its engagement of policy actors.
  • Convene an internal task force or working group on forced labor to discuss strategy, identify objectives and address technical and operational matters to ensure the working group’s success.
  • Support or lead the development of a national or industry-based plan of action as a key institutional mechanism to engage policy actors.
  • Communicate internally on relevant issues, and support networking and capacity building for effective policy advocacy across the organization. Participate in external communications and public information campaigns.
  • Support the adoption of a national, industry-wide or international policy or code of conduct to reinforce a public commitment to fighting forced labor and exploitation of migrant workers.
  • Take a leadership role in engaging public policy actors directly at both national and international levels.
  • Identify and foster partnerships or coalitions of like-minded business and stakeholder organizations to enhance the potential impact of public policy engagement.

TOOL 3: Examples of Good Practice in Engagement

Following are examples of various ways in which companies have engaged in the strengthening and reform of public policy to regulate labor recruiters and protect migrant workers from forced labor and human trafficking:

  • Microsoft has worked closely at the international level with UNGIFT on the basis of the Palermo Protocol. It has helped develop an eLearning platform for business to raise awareness about human trafficking and the risks it can pose to brands and global supply chains.
  • A number of global garment brands and retailers – including H&MColumbia Sportswear and Levi Strauss & Co. – work closely with the Better Work program, a joint initiative of the ILO and International Finance Corporation. Through such co-operation, these companies commit to address labor standards challenges, including the prohibition of forced labor, through multi-stakeholder engagement and dialogue at both policy and technical levels.
  • VAMAS is the Vietnam Association of Manpower Supply. It is the national association that represents the recruitment industry in Vietnam and labor recruiters playing workers internationally and in the domestic market. In 2010, VAMAS launched a Code of Conduct Applied to Vietnamese Enterprises Sending Workers for Overseas Employment. This code of conduct sets standards that regulate the behavior of VAMAS’ member companies on areas of work such as job advertisement, recruitment, training, sending and protecting workers overseas, and dispute settlement. The code was developed with support from VAMAS’ members and in close cooperation with the Vietnam Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs and the ILO to ensure consistency with national law and international standards. •
  • The United States Council for International Business (USCIB), on behalf of its members, has taken a clear role in addressing forced labor in global supply chains. In February 2008, it co-sponsored, along with the US Chamber of Commerce and the International Organization of Employers, a multi-stakeholder conference on the issue, hosted by the Coca Cola Company at its headquarters in Atlanta. This one-day, intensive event brought together 80 representatives of business, government, civil society and the ILO to share experiences and knowledge on the role of business in combating forced labor.
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.