In 2016, CBIS began to engage Thai Union on the issue of human trafficking in the seafood section. Human trafficking abuses in the shrimp supply chain in Thailand have been well documented. As the largest seafood company globally by sales, Thai Union has the ability to have far-reaching impacts in the sector to improve labor standards. CBIS will work with Thai Union to ensure the company is assessing its immediate and extended seafood supply chain for human trafficking.
Thai Union came to CBIS’ office in the third quarter of 2016 to outline its progress to eliminate slave labor from the seafood supply chain in Thailand. The company has taken a number of steps since widely circulated investigations uncovered abusive working conditions at a number of Thai Union suppliers. This external attention has pushed Thai Union to make significant changes in its business operations, including hiring workers directly rather than rely on labor brokers, some of whom charge workers exorbitant fees, promise jobs that never materialize, confiscate identity documents so workers are unable to leave, and often withhold pay. Thai Union is working with a variety of NGOs to provide grievance mechanisms for workers in factories and at sea and is now auditing its shrimp supply chain from vessels to fishmeal plants and farms to ensure suppliers comply with its code against forced labor. Violators of human rights stipulations are immediately terminated. Thai Union is taking an active role in the Shrimp Sustainable Supply Chain Task Force (which actually covers the whole of seafood, in spite of the name). In addition to corporate representation, government representatives are included and NGOs act as an external advisory body to provide oversight. The Task Force is creating a code of conduct, auditable standards, and a model for monitoring that they will all agree to adhere to. The company also hired a Director of Sustainability who has been given free reign by senior management to implement changes. The company is now one of the leaders in the industry. Since much of its program is in its infancy, CBIS will follow the company’s implementation closely.