Brazilian Pact to Eradicate Slave Labour

a) Mission

To implement tools so that the corporate sector and Brazilian society avoid commercializing products from suppliers that have made use of slave labor.

b) Activities description and their innovation

In 2003, NGO Repórter Brasil has made a trial research in order to verify the possibility of success of an assessment method to map productive chains and, on the following year, the organization has realized a comprehensive study to show how merchandise produced with slave labor were inserted in Brazilian and global economy. Problems have been identified in the following productive chains: cattle ranching, coal, soy, cotton, lumber, corn, rice, beans, fruits, potato and sugarcane, among others.

With the study complete, in a process coordinated by Instituto Ethos of Corportate and Social Responsibility, the most important and representative organization of the segment in the country, and International Labor Organization (ILO), Brazilian and national and transnational companies that were implicated in this net were invited to create mechanisms that could bar suppliers that made use of such form of exploitation. Such dialogues gave birth to the National Pact for the Eradication of Slave Labor, the first and only one in its area in the whole world. The initiative already gathers 130 Brazilian companies, commercial associations and social organizations, that are responsible for an annual gross income equivalent to more than 20% of Brazil's gross national product (GNP).

So far, the anti-slavery system had not yet involved the corporate sector. Productive chain studies and the National Pact have made possible the fight against slavery through its commercial dimension. Through them, society can affect those that profit by restraining others' freedom. Now, it's possible to go directly to the problem, preserving brazilian economy and avoiding useless trade barriers on entire industries.

c) Implementation

In the year of 2004, National Secretary of Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic has asked ILO and Repórter Brasil that a great study on the identification of supply chains of slave labor was made. With ILO grants, eight researchers of Repórter Brasil have mapped, for one year, the commercial relationships of 100 estates from the "laundry list" of slave labor - a Ministry of Labor roster that gathers employers that have committed such crime. The result was a net of 200 national and foreign companies that commercialized products from those estates.

With the research ready, Instituto Ethos, ILO and Repórter Brasil have coordinated meetings with the companies detected in the assessment. Preliminary talks evolved, leading to the launch of the National Pact for the Eradication of Slave Labor, in May of 2005, to economically boycott slavery in Brazil.

d) Expansion

The process is in constant expansion. The productive chain research has turned into a constant study, bringing new signing parties to the group.

In 2007, a new comprehensive productive chain research of Repórter Brasil, involving five researchers for a year, has identified a slave labor net with around 300 companies, based in more than 170 estates from the "laundry list". The results of the research are still being compiled, while companies are being invited to acknowledge the data and be asked for commitment.

Repórter Brasil, ILO and Ethos offer formation for the employees of the signing members of the Pact so that they can put to practice the principles established. A communication channel ( has been created to contribute with social responsibility policies related to the struggle against slavery. This channel is maintained with resources from members of the Pact.

We accept invitations from governments and social and private institutions from other countries, such as the US, Germany and Pakistan, in order to clarify what the National Pact is and how it contributes to the exclusion of bad employers without the need of raising any commercial barriers.

Dialogues with private, civil society and international institutions are being held in order to extend the Pact to other nations, such as Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru. The goal is to create a South American Pact for the Eradication of Slave Labor. If the exploitation of slavery is transnational, so should be the actions towards the guarantee of the rights of workers.

e) Partnerships

The main partners and co-responsible for the success of the National Pact are ILO and Instituto Ethos, which form, along with Repórter Brasil, the National Pact Committee. Those institutions were already valuable partners in the promotion of decent work in the country. Instituto Observatório Social, from CUT, the biggest brazilian workers trade union, is an important partner in the monitoring of results.

Repórter Brasil and ILO are members of the National Commission for the Eradication of Slave Labor, which involves the federal government and civil society. Other members of the commission also contribute with the National Pact, such as National Secretary of Human Rights of The Presidency of the Republic and the Ministry of Labor, giving support or exchanging information. In United States, we have partnership with Free the Slaves.

Besides, of course, all of the signing companies that fully commit to the National Pact are considered partners.

f) Impacts - Beneficiaries

Estimates point that around 25,000 people become slaves annually in estates and coal sites in Brazil. However, the action of the National Pact in the struggle against slavery generates improvements in life quality of rural workers of the whole country. Its principles aim not only at the eradication of this crime, but also at the promotion of decent labor. Brazil counts on more than 17 million rural workers, distributed along more than 4,5 million rural properties. This entire universe suffers, directly or indirectly, the good influence of the more than 20% share of the GNP that has signed the National Pact.

The corporate sector benefits, because has gained instruments to maintain its activities far from suppliers that use slaves - and, due to that, has avoided sanctions that we ourselves, from the National Pact Committee, impose, in case of non-compliance to the agreement. But the main beneficiaries are all the rural workers from Brazil, once the National Pact has made bad employers think twice before exploring laborers, since they can lose sales by doing that.

g) Impacts - Economy

Companies with great economic weight have altered their contracts, to insert clauses of commercial restriction against those that have made use of slavery, after having signed the Pact, such as Carrefour and Pão de Açúcar. Companies, such as Wal-Mart, have been breaking relationships with slaughterhouses that deny themselves to boycott cattle ranchers that have used slave labor. Other companies, in e.g. Coteminas, have started tracing their productive chains to check if they are indirectly buying from estates that have used slaves. The biggest ethanol distributors, like Petrobras and Ipiranga have become actors in combating slavery in the ethanol chain due to the National Pact, breaking contracts with suppliers and creating a harsh situation for plant owners that don't follow the law.

h) Impacts - Public Policies

Due to the importance of the results of the productive chain researches and of the National Pact, promotion and defense of this agreement was incorporated to the 2nd National Plan for the Eradication of Slaver Labor, approved in April 17th 2008, and officially launched in August by the federal government. In other words, the defense and promotion of the National Pact has become itself a public policy.

Info obtained in the productive chain studies are used by the executive, legislative and judiciary powers in activities and laws regarding the combat of slave labor.

i) Sustainability - Financing

The productive chain assessments are sponsored by the ILO and by international non-governmental institutions. The website and the newsletter that act as communication channel between the signing parties is supported by the companies and associations that are members of the Pact. On the same hand, events that annually gather the signatories for the evaluation of the fulfillment of the commitment and showcase of good practices are financed by the companies. Meetings with companies and governments and seminaries for employees of those companies are dealt with resources of each of the three organizations that form the National Pact Committee.

The tendency is that the National Pact continues to draw resources that do not come from corporate sector so that assessments on the productive chain can keep being developed, with the necessary ethical independence assured. But the costs of maintenance, promotion and expansion of the National Pact can be financed by the signatories themselves. The National Pact Committee has to apply for resources from within the United Nations system or through national and international grants in order to maintain activities.

j) Sustainability - Expansion prognosis

The number of signatories of the National Pact grows every time productive chain studies are conducted. It is impossible to measure a limit for such growth, since the country has thousands of companies that are direct or indirect potential buyers of suppliers that use slave labor. Alongside, there are demands from entities from abroad to replicate the experience outside Brazil. To sum up, the experience contributes with other pacts, in sectors that also suffer from labor exploitation, such as the biofuels segment.

On the same hand, the National Pact, following its Conduct Code, has already excluded two signatories until August 2008: the companies owned by Grupo José Pessoa, producers of ethanol and sugar, and the iron and steel company Usimar. Both have not complied with the agreement, by incurring in infractions. Therefore, the permanence of a company or association in the National Pact is conditioned to the fulfillment of its principles. So, even a decrease in the number of companies does not represent its weakening, but, on the contrary, it signifies the strengthening of the group that has committed to eradicate slavery in Brazil.

k) Sustainability - Limits

Signatory companies already contribute with the maintenance of this process. Currently, that occurs exceptionally, but has to become institutional in mid-term. The creation of a fund with resources from the signatories to assure financial sustainability is being discussed. Such contribution should be provided without restrictions, giving the Committee freedom to decide where to apply the resources. If it does not happen the National Pact will lose the legitimacy that has accomplished in and outside Brazil.

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