“As a signatory of the UN Global Pact, we are actively committed to the elimination of child labour. We require our suppliers to act accordingly and contractually prohibit them from employing children”. (Merck)
Main topics: Human Rights, Child Labour, Supply Chain, Raw Materials, Transparency, Labour and Social Standards
Any activity which is too dangerous for children because of their age, which affects their physical and mental development and which prevents them from going to school is known as child labour. The worst forms include slavery or forced labour. According to estimates by UNICEF, ILO and the World Bank, approximately 170 million children are affected worldwide. 85 million of these suffer from working conditions that are dangerous and exploitative.
German companies can also encounter child labour within their more ramified supply chains; the mining of raw materials in developing countries and emerging markets is one example of this. What companies can do to eliminate child labour in their value creation process is ideally shown by the measures that Merck takes within its mica supply chain.
Merck uses mica to produce its effect pigments. The company mainly sources the mineral from the north-east Indian State of Jharkhand, where child labour is widespread due to poverty and political instability. In a 2008 study, Merck ascertained that children were also used to mine mica.
Merck took the following measures to eliminate child labour from the mica supply chain:
1. Compliance with social standards along the supply chain
Control through guiding principles: To enable suppliers to comply with the principles of the Human Rights Charter of the company, the supply chain was developed in such a way that Merck had much more direct influence on its suppliers, enabling the company to enforce corporate values regarding compliance with environmental and social standards at suppliers’ facilities.
Merck has also introduced various control mechanisms that provide transparency in the mica supply chain:
2. Improvement of living conditions in the mica mining areas
In addition to the conversion of the supply chain, Merck has also developed education and health programmes in Jharkhand together with its partner IGEP. These programmes are designed to improve the living conditions of local workers.
First and foremost, companies with widely-ramified, intra-transparent supply chains that source intermediate products and raw materials from developing and emerging markets are affected by the issue of child labour – so it is important to first identify the critical points in your own value creation process and to analyse exactly if and where child labour exists.
A risk map can help the company; it is a visualisation tool that clarifies the risk profile in child labour and helps you to better assess the effects. Where required, companies can then develop an action plan to eliminate child labour in the supply chain, together with specialised partners. The DGCN offers webinars and coaching sessions to support companies in their endeavours.
Measures that can help you