Worldwide slavery in numbers, Coke says no to land grabs and how companies can help influence climate policy

Slavery rank of shame

Ten countries account for a whopping 76% of the 29.8 million people living in slavery today: India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma and Bangladesh.

The Global Slavery Index (GSI) is an independent report created by the Walk Free Foundation and is the first to measure slavery country by country. The GSI has evaluated and ranked the prevalence of modern slavery across 162 countries, weighing three variables: a composite estimate of the number of people enslaved per country (given a 95% weighting in the ranking), the level of human trafficking to and from each country (2.5%), and the level of child and early marriage (2.5%).

Mauritania ranked first in the index with about 150,000 people enslaved out of a total population of just 3.8 million, caused by acute levels of child marriage and human trafficking.

Haiti is ranked second with 210,000 enslaved out of a population of 10.2 million. The country is plagued with a history of child slavery, called the “restavek system”, as well as high rates of child marriage and human trafficking.

Asia is the continent with the highest absolute number of people ensnared by modern slavery, accounting for 72.7% of the world’s total enslaved population. India ranks highest with an estimated 13.5 million people enslaved, while China comes in second with 2.5 million, followed by Pakistan with about 2.1 million enslaved.

With modern slavery at such levels, Gina Defalia, spokeswoman for the Walk Free Foundation, says she hopes the index will “help fill information gaps and provide governments with up-to-date information on factors that allow them to improve the effectiveness of their responses to this issue”, and will prompt businesses to ensure their products are slave-free.

Coke takes land grab action

In October, more than 225,000 people submitted an Oxfam petition to Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Associated British Foods urging them to better respect communities’ land rights throughout their supply chain. Coca-Cola – the largest sugar purchaser in the world – subsequently made a public “zero tolerance” commitment against land grabbing. It is the only one of the three companies to have responded in such a way.

Coca-Cola agreed to conduct third-party social, environmental and human rights assessments, starting with its suppliers in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, India, the Philippines, Thailand and South Africa. These are seven of the top 16 countries from which Coke sources cane sugar.

Other commitments include engaging with governments and international bodies to support responsible land rights practices, and addressing the cases of land grabbing highlighted in Oxfam’s recent Nothing Sweet About It report.

“Today one of the biggest companies in the world stood up to take greater responsibility for the impacts of its operations,” says Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. “Coca-Cola has taken an important step to show consumers and the communities it relies upon that it aims to be a part of the solution to land grabs. This will resonate throughout the industry.”

Compact climate policy guide

A new multi-stakeholder report led by the United Nations Global Compact outlines how companies can help accelerate global climate policies, and track their involvement in a transparent and accountable way.

The Guide to Responsible Corporate Engagement in Climate Policy was written in collaboration with the UN Environmental Programme, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, World Resources Institute, the Climate Group, Carbon Disclosure Project, WWF and industry environmental coalition Ceres. The report comes on the heels of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP19) in Warsaw, Poland, where delegates worked to reach an agreement on a legally binding climate change treaty.

While companies are increasingly engaged in national and international climate policy, a recent survey of 1,700 Global Compact members shows that only 30% have aligned their government affairs activities with their corporate responsibility commitments.

The new guide identifies three key areas for a company to affect the climate policy debate: create an inventory of its influences on climate policy; align its positions and influences to ensure consistency and accountability; and report on climate change policy influences, intentions and outcomes using a three-tiered framework for transparency.

The guide is based on a review of 13 existing reports on responsible corporate engagement, as well as interviews and consultations with more than 60 companies, NGOs, government, academia, and thinktanks in 20 countries.

“While some are holding fast to old models of doing business, true leaders of 21st century companies are charting a new course towards a clean energy economy,” says Mindy Lubber, president and chief executive of Ceres. “They see the risks, the opportunities and the need for policy action. By following the best practices set forth in this report, responsible businesses will model effective participation in the democratic process and help to inform meaningful climate policy.”

Global Compact  ngo news  ngo roundup  NGOwatch  slavery  supply chain 

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