Thai Union and Nestl? Launch Human Rights Boat
Thai Union Group and Nestlé have launched a demonstration boat to promote the human rights of workers in the Thai fishing industry. The boat is the first of its kind in Thailand.
The two companies, in collaboration with global non-profit Verité, renovated a standard Thai fishing boat, transforming it into a modern vessel demonstrating improved working conditions and labor standards. The renovated boat demonstrates the standards set for boats greater than 24 meters by the International Labor Organisation’s C188 convention for human rights at sea, as well as Thailand’s updated fisheries regulations.
To meet these standards and regulations, boat owners are required to provide proper safety equipment as well as adequate and clean food and drinking water for the crew. Appropriate rest, dining and leisure areas, demonstrated with this vessel, are mandatory, along with a first-aid kit and toilet facility with proper sanitation standards.
Regularly scheduled viewings and training workshops will demonstrate to boat owners and crew how to improve the working standards for fishers at sea.
The initiative started in March 2016, supported by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) and the Thai Department of Fisheries (DOF). Thai Union and Nestlé helped fund development of the refurbished boat.
“Human rights abuses have no place in our supply chain. Nestlé is committed to improving livelihoods in the communities in which we operate. We will continue to work with the Thai fishing industry through our supply chain to exhibit best practices in respecting and promoting human rights for fishery workers,” said Benjamin Ware, Global Head of Responsible Sourcing for Nestlé.
The project is in line with Nestle’s Thailand Action Plan for Responsible Sourcing of Seafood and Thai Union’s sustainability strategy, SeaChange – an integrated plan of initiatives, organized into four programs, to drive meaningful improvements across the entire global seafood industry. SeaChange programs include safe and legal labor, responsible operations, responsible sourcing and people and communities.
Thailand is the world’s fourth largest seafood exporter, earning the country annual revenues of over $6.5 billion according to recent figures. Over the last few years, Thailand’s overseas fishing industry has been put under the spotlight as a stream of media reports exposed human rights abuses linked to supply chains of major global seafood producers.
In 2014, The Guardian uncovered widespread labor exploitation, saying in an article that workers were enslaved, brutalized and even killed. Major U.S. and European retailers such as Aldi, Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco were mentioned by name in the article as sourcing seafood from Thailand.
In August 2015, consumers filed a class action against Nestlé in California alleging that the company had violated consumer protection laws by failing to disclose that ingredients in its cat food products may have been sourced using forced labor. The action was dismissed in court in December 2015. However, in November of that year, the company announced that it had found forced labor in its supply chains in Thailand. The research was conducted by Verité.