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June 06, 2023

Pakistan: The Application of Traceability Technology to Enhance Global Labor Rights Due Diligence in Pakistan’s Cotton Sector

Jeffrey Wheeler

As global supply chains have grown more complex and labor rights problems have only increased, governments, brands, investors, consumers, workers and other civil society actors have been demanding greater transparency, including through new traceability technologies. One driver has been the alarming evidence of labor rights abuses. The International Labor Organization (ILO) concluded that global progress against child labor, estimated to include 160 million children in 2020, has stalled for the first time in two decades. The ILO also estimated that in 2021 about 27.6 million people were in forced labor.

Another important set of drivers include mandatory import requirements, including the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s vigorous enforcement of the Tariff Act’s prohibition of the importation of goods made by forced labor through withhold release orders and the new Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (2021), which strengthens the prohibition against the importation of goods mined, produced or manufactured with forced labor in China, most particularly Xinjiang. The EU draft ban to prohibit importation of goods made with forced labor (2023) is also expected to come into effect soon, on the heels of the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (2022).

In response, the U.S. Department of Labor has funded the Global Trace Protocol project (GTP), implemented by ELEVATE Ltd. ELEVATE Ltd (an LRQA company), which aims to reduce child and forced labor in global supply chains through traceability, including with a pilot in Pakistan’s cotton sector. The Project produced the Pakistan Cotton Supply Chain Mapping Report (2022) to guide implementation, which has included conducting a worker survey at the farm level and tracing cotton from the ginner to the spinners Nishat and AFM with a trace tool developed with assistance from Diginex and a DNA marker administered by Haelixa. The Project supported a Yarn Ethically and Sustainably Sourced (YESS) assessment at the spinners, which will be supplemented by an ELEVATE Responsible Sourcing Assessment (ERSA). Stakeholders in Pakistan’s cotton sector have responded favorably, viewing these efforts has helping to improve their competitive edge. USDOL is also funding a sister project implemented by Verité (“STREAMS”) in India’s cotton sector.

The Project is engaging with trace experts, global brands, the Pakistan cotton sector, and worker organizations to design, implement and critique the pilot trace tool with the aim of improving its future application and developing publicly available commodity agnostic trace resources for enhanced due diligence.

Jeffrey Wheeler

Director, Global Trace Protocol Project

ELEVATE, Ltd. (an LRQA company)

Washington, D.C.

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