The European Commission has approved a regulation to prevent the sale of any product that contains some type of forced labor in its manufacturing process. The application of the standard, once approved by the European Parliament and the Council, will correspond to the Member States which, in order to detect the presence of this type of work, will have information from a database on forced labor focused on products and geographical areas sensitive to the use of this type of work. It will also be used due diligence [auditorías a fondo] that the companies themselves have to do in their own supply chain, explains Brussels.
Although forced labor may seem like a thing of the past, there are still parts of the world today where it occurs. According to the calculations with which the Commission contextualizes its initiative based on the surveys of the International Labor Organization (ILO), there are still 27 million people who suffer from this abuse in the world. The situation is even found in the European Union itself. The Vice President responsible for the Economic Zone and Commissioner for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, calculates that this affects some 800,000 people in Los Veintisiete, as he explained in a meeting with various media, including EL PAÍS. However, the Latvian politician, who warns that these figures may be outdated because they date from 2012, places the area most affected by this scourge in Central Asia.
“This proposal will make a real difference in the fight against modern slavery, which affects millions of people around the world. Our goal is to remove all products made by forced labor from the EU market, regardless of where they were made. It will apply to domestic products as well as to exports and imports,” Dombrovskis said.
“We cannot maintain a pattern of consuming goods produced in an unsustainable way. Our single market is a tremendous asset to prevent the products of forced labor from circulating in the EU, and a lever to promote more sustainability in the world”, added the commissioner in charge of the internal market, Thierry Breton.
In the European Union, there are already various regulations that crack down on these abuses, such as a 2009 directive that sets minimum penalties for employers of irregular immigrants. In addition, another directive relating to the obligation for companies to carry out due diligenceaudits of their supply chains, so this proposal is closely linked to the one approved on Wednesday.
Although this type of abuse occurs more in textile, agricultural or mining activities, the new standard is aimed at all sectors and companies, without leaving SMEs out of compliance. However, Commission officials explain that in the application of the regulation their situation will be taken into account and that, even, it plans to give guidelines for the audits to be carried out in the supply chains. Dombrovskis also stresses that they don’t expect “there will be any significant additional costs for businesses.” This statement is based on the fact that Brussels defends that many companies have already advanced in the work of adding transparency to the supply chain. However, we assume there will be something when we say that “costs will vary depending on the size of the company, the sector and the supply chain of a given company”.