Ralph Lauren Corporation: Reporting on Forced Labor Risks
BE IT RESOLVED: Shareholders request Ralph Lauren’ Board of Directors to report, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, on the Company’s process for identifying and analyzing potential and actual human rights risks of its operations and supply chain.
SUPPORTING STATEMENT: In developing the report, the Company could consider:
Human rights principles used to frame the assessment
Frequency of assessment
Methodology used to track and measure performance on forced labor risks, and
How results of the assessment are incorporated into company policies and decision making.
WHEREAS: An estimated 16 million people are trapped in conditions of forced labor in extended private sector supply chains, generating over $150 billion in profits for illegal labor recruiters and employers through underpayment of wages. Over 70% of these workers are in debt bondage and forced to work in industries such as agriculture and food processing.
In the apparel industry, forced labor occurs both in the production of raw materials and during manufacturing, especially at lower tier suppliers and in home-based or informal manufacturing.
Migrant workers globally are prime targets for exploitation including discrimination, retaliation, debt bondage, illegal wage deductions, and confiscated or restricted access to personal documents that limits workers’ freedom of movement and leads to forced labor and human trafficking.
According to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies have the corporate responsibility to respect human rights within their operations and supply chains. Any company directly or indirectly employing migrant workers must have a policy that assesses if workers are being recruited into debt bondage, forced labor and, ultimately, slavery. The State of California and the United Kingdom passed laws requiring companies to report on their actions to eradicate human trafficking and slavery.
Ralph Lauren has received low ratings in several recent reports assessing corporations’ systems for identifying and managing the problem of forced labor in apparel industry supply chains.
In the 2018 Fashion Transparency Index, Ralph Lauren scored an overall 14%. Its sub-scores were particularly low in the areas of traceability, supplier assessments, addressing problems, tackling gender-based discrimination and violence in supply chains, living wages, and union and collective bargaining.
In Know The Chain’s 2018 Apparel & Footwear Benchmark Findings Report, Ralph Lauren’s score was 58 of 100 possible points. In a profile of Ralph Lauren, Know The Chain stated: “Ralph Lauren has an opportunity to improve by disclosing the names and locations of its first-tier suppliers, assessing and disclosing forced labor risks in its supply chain, and improving its practices on the themes of recruitment and worker voice.”
Ralph Lauren’s 2018 Ethical Fashion Report overall score was a D+, with particularly low sub-scores in the areas of worker empowerment (F) and auditing and supplier relationships (D-). It received a C in traceability and transparency and a B for the quality of its policies.