Apple and other companies whose products are made using forced child labor would be required by law to detail the efforts they have in place to halt such practices, if Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal gets his way.
Earlier this month, Blumenthal proposed a bill that would “require certain companies to disclose information describing any measures the company has taken to identify and address conditions of forced labor, slavery, human trafficking, and the worst forms of child labor within the company’s supply chains,” according to the text of the measure.
This would be accomplished by amending the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
“Corporate complicity in human trafficking is a fact that consumers and investors deserve to know,” Blumenthal said in a release. “This measure is about a disclosure duty concerning moral and possible legal culpability for modern-day slavery.”
The U.S. Department of Labor currently identifies 136 goods from 74 countries made by forced labor and child labor.
The so-called “Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2015,” would apply to all publicly traded companies with more than $100 million in global receipts. Efforts to combat human trafficking, and the use of forced and child labor would be provided to the Securities and Exchange Commission and posted on each company’s website, should the bill be passed into law.
According to the text of Blumenthal’s bill, “The United States is the world’s largest importer, and in the 21st century, investors, consumers, and broader civil society increasingly demand information about the human rights impact of products in the United States market.”
iPhone maker Apple is one high-profile company known both for its use of suppliers that rely on forced and child labor and its willingness to talk about efforts to combat forced labor. The company’s 2015 supplier responsibility report, which it produced without being legally compelled to do so, cites audits of 633 suppliers in 2014, covering more than 1.6 million workers.
“You’ll see that we address difficult issues like underage labor in a frank and open way,” Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of operations, wrote in the report. “You’ll also see that we consistently report suppliers’ violations of our standards.”
But Apple is, by far, not the only U.S. company to use products and services made with forced and child labor. According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons report, “Risks are present in the service sector, as well as in the production of goods.”
“The sheets in a hotel may be made with cotton harvested by forced labor, the housekeeper cleaning the room may be exploited in labor trafficking, and the room itself may be used as a temporary brothel by sex traffickers,” the report says.
According to the Department of Labor, cotton and clothing are the most common goods to be produced globally with forced and child labor.
“Countless victims, particularly women and children, are exploited by major corporations when they profit from human trafficking known among their suppliers,” Blumenthal said. “Consumers and investors can impact corporate conduct that condones or encourages human trafficking.”
Jordan Fenster can be reached by or @JordanFenster on Twitter.