Forced-labour-free supply chains in Switzerland

supply chain challenges
Photo: Ani Raw Shots / shutterstock

Cocoa and seafood, imports of which Switzerland is highly dependent on, are associated with high risks of forced (child) labour. An estimated 30,000 adults and children endure forced labour conditions in cocoa growing areas of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the latter being the main producer of Swiss cocoa imports. Meanwhile, global seafood supply chains often rely on (migrant) labour from the global South, with many fish workers trapped in indecent working conditions that range from labour exploitation to modern slavery.

EU efforts and implications for Switzerland

Among the European Union’s efforts to ensure sustainable supply chains, the regulation Prohibiting Products Made with Forced Labour on the Union Market (EUFLR) may be one of its most pioneering instruments. With it, the European Union (EU) plans to eradicate forced labour from supply chains feeding into its market. Adopted by the European Parliament on 23 April 2024, the regulation is expected to have also substantial implications for Switzerland. Swiss businesses and their suppliers will have to demonstrate that their products are not made with forced (child) labour as long as they wish to continue importing from, and exporting to, the EU.

At the same time, the regulation will affect suppliers based in the global South. Concerns regarding market exclusion, for example, echo those raised in connection to the recently passed EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR). Despite potentially enormous impacts on all stakeholders, and especially more vulnerable groups, to date little debate has occurred in Switzerland on the proposed regulation. To gauge the extent of such impacts, and to ensure readiness for the EUFLR, the potential of public and private governance initiatives to support fair and effective implementation must be assessed and timely discussions within the public and private sectors initiated.

The project’s goal

The overarching goal of this project is to work towards the realization of forced-labour-free supply chains leading into and out of Switzerland. It aims to encourage readiness within the Swiss cocoa and seafood sectors in anticipation of the new EU regulation concerning forced labour. The project team works to achieve this by leveraging CDE’s expertise and engaging local and international stakeholder ties, in conjunction to facilitating stakeholder dialogues at Switzerland’s private–public interface.

canoa in Ghana
Fishing canoe, Ghana. Photo: Vanessa Jaiteh

Objectives and approach

Four interconnected modules structure the project’s approach:

1) Knowledge foundation

This first phase is dedicated to developing a comprehensive understanding of the present state of forced-labour governance, with particular focus on Switzerland. Drawing on interviews with experts, as well as reviewing the scientific and grey literature and data on sustainability standards, this module provides the knowledge base for subsequent workshop discussions, outreach activities, and knowledge products developed in later modules.

2) Mutual learning

In this module, the research team leads an internal workshop to generate learnings from CDE’s role as a knowledge broker in policy and stakeholder engagement efforts, and to consolidate insights from CDE’s ongoing work on the roles of public and private sustainability initiatives in supply chain regulations.

3) Stakeholder exchange

This phase includes a stakeholder exchange event in Switzerland, discussions with producers in sourcing countries, and engagement with ongoing processes identified in module 1. The goal is to identify avenues to promote, adopt and expedite forced-labour-free supply chains in Switzerland.

4) Promote preparedness

Syntheses of modules 1–3 form the basis for further engagement with national and international policy dialogues, the academic community, and the broader public. Project findings will be communicated through knowledge products targeted towards and disseminated to study participants and other stakeholders, including government, private-sector, and civil-society audiences.

Info box
Duration January – December 2024
Funding CDE
Contact Dr. Gabi Sonderegger

Dr. Maurice Tschopp

Dr. Vanessa Jaiteh