ELEVATE to serve as RBA Foundation supporting program partner to help prevent forced labor

  • Published: 6 March 2018

The Responsible Business Alliance (RBA), formerly the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), today announced the RBA Foundation received a $1 million grant from the Walmart Foundation to help build a robust and responsible recruitment marketplace for migrant labor in Malaysia and surrounding nations. Through this investment, the RBA Foundation and its supporting program partner, ELEVATE, aim to help break the cycle of exploitation common in foreign migrant worker recruitment and employment experiences in the region by transforming the market for ethical business practices and including workers themselves in developing solutions to persistent challenges.

Global supply chains are complex and fragmented, leaving migrant workers particularly vulnerable to exploitation, on a spectrum from unpaid overtime to modern-day slavery. Malaysia serves as a major manufacturing hub for many industries and migrant labor comprises a large percentage of the workforce, supported by a network of third-party labor hiring firms to meet the need for sourcing and management of foreign workers.  However, many of these recruiters lack the training and capacity to guide recruitment practices, increasing worker vulnerability.

The RBA Foundation and ELEVATE will work together over a 24-month period to implement a solutions-oriented program, including publicly available education and information, focusing downstream to detect and address forced labor. The project will include additional upstream work, done in tandem, to develop the maturity of labor agents to meet ethical recruitment standards and better educate workers and factory management directly.

“The work of the Responsible Business Alliance Foundation to make a positive, lasting impact in the labor market in Malaysia supports our overarching goal of advancing dignity in work across global supply chains,” said Karrie Denniston, Senior Director, Walmart Foundation. “We anticipate what the RBA Foundation learns in making responsible recruitment a sustainable and scalable norm in Malaysia will be transferable to other countries and regions that rely on foreign migrant workers.”

The RBA has worked over the past decade to promote responsible sourcing practices in global electronics supply chains, offering a social audit standard, training and resources to improve social accountability. RBA’s research indicates that labor agent ethical maturity and the education and empowerment of migrant workers in Malaysia are critical leverage points to address along the recruitment journey to reduce worker exploitation.

“The RBA Foundation is grateful to the Walmart Foundation for its generous support and its shared vision of a global supply chain supported by an ethical recruitment system that protects foreign migrant workers,” said Rob Lederer, Executive Director of the Responsible Business Alliance. “Through the RBA Foundation, we look forward to leveraging the grant from the Walmart Foundation to build upon the vast experience, tools and best practices developed by the RBA in order to further develop programs to accelerate responsible recruitment.”

Primary drivers that perpetuate conditions of exploitation and forced labor in Malaysia include a lack of adequate education and rigorous, ethical recruitment processes; a lack of worker understanding about their legal protections and rights; and ineffective worker-to-employer communication and feedback loops. These conditions make Malaysia an ideal place to drive meaningful change through the program envisioned and supported by this Walmart Foundation grant.

The program will aim to:

  • Accelerate the transformation of recruitment markets and reduce the risk of forced labor
  • Develop public education and resources on forced labor and ethical sourcing
  • Implement ELEVATE’s Laborlink Forced Labor Index Survey and Recruitment Survey to capture thousands of new data points from workers
  • Scale a labor agency maturity system to create a network of business partners that meet international expectations for ethical recruitment
  • Include foreign migrant workers directly in solution development by educating them on their individual and collective rights through the rollout of a customized education curriculum aimed at knowledge sharing and skills training

“We are excited to partner with the Responsible Business Alliance Foundation and the Walmart Foundation as we leverage learnings from the RBA-ELEVATE Workplace of Choice program piloted in Malaysia as well as ELEVATE’s recently acquired Laborlink capabilities to develop resources that can improve the underlying dynamics of recruitment in Malaysia and globally,” said Ian Spaulding, CEO, ELEVATE.

About the RBA Foundation

The Responsible Business Alliance Foundation is a Section 501(c)(3) supporting organization of the Responsible Business Alliance, a Section 501(c)(6) organization. The RBA Foundation is organized, administered and operated exclusively for charitable, scientific and educational purposes, within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, including to improve the public’s ability to make informed decisions about the social, environmental and economic responsibility in the supply chain of the products they purchase and to engage in other charitable, scientific and educational activity. For more information, visit RBAFoundation.org.

Media Contacts

Jarrett Bens, Director of Communications
Responsible Business Alliance
+1 571 858 5721
[email protected]

Marilee McInnis
Walmart Media Relations
+1 800 331 0085

Bronwyn Alexander
Director, Marketing and Communications ELEVATE
+852 9080 8437
[email protected]