August 16, 2016
Doing the right thing is "good business" and companies that don't see the connection won't survive in the long run. That's what the head of a non-profit that helps businesses build a more just and sustainable world said, on the margins of a United Nations debate on ending forced labour. Deganit Perez of United Nations Radio spoke to Alison Taylor, Director of Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), and asked her what today's forced labor conditions are like:
[Alison Taylor]: There are many, many examples: an example from Southeast Asia in the fishing industry. I think another great example is South Asian workers working in the Gulf countries in construction. There is a question of knowledge, of what these workers knew before they signed up for things, of what they agreed to do, and then, of the choices and options and opportunities open to them.
[Deganit Perez]: How has the international response changed to face this newer version of forced labor?
[Alison Taylor]: I think the international response and the international trajectory is extremely positive, but I think what we are still seeing is something that is an overwhelming problem and an overwhelming challenge that no one entity or group of entities can solve.
[Deganit Perez]: Global supply chains involve many countries at a time. What do you think is the role of the UN in that regard in synchronizing the countries’ actions?
[Alison Taylor]: The role of the UN is, I think, to bring in voices from the countries where this is an issue, and that understanding, so that we can tackle these problems holistically, and we are not excluding certain countries, excluding certain markets, and placing the blame on the countries where these conditions occur, but rather seeing how the cause and effect relates, and how we can share knowledge and build capacity to tackle these share challenges.
[Deganit Perez]: So, what actions related to the 2030 agenda are being undertaken?
[Alison Taylor]: In order to stop this from just being an event and something else that people make a big fuss about and then move on, we need to continue to make the connection between long-term commercial survival of businesses and operating responsibly. And we basically need to get rid of the fallacy that business is just business and doing good is something that happens elsewhere, and to bring these conversations together, because doing the right thing is good business, and companies that don’t acknowledge that are just not seeing the connections with their long-term survival and the trust that they are generating or not generating from stakeholders.