Consumers and companies are more engaged than ever in identifying the risks of human rights abuses in global supply chains, including child labor and forced labor. Companies are tackling this challenge through human rights due diligence (take JDE’s corporate responsibility report, for example). These efforts include mapping their supply chains, assessing their risks, mitigating risks through engagement with suppliers, monitoring their supply chains, and investing in prevention, as well as remediation, when cases are found.
Rigorous human rights standards
The Rainforest Alliance Certification Program is an important tool to help companies support their implementation of human rights due diligence. The certified farmers and buyers in our program are all pursuing complementary goals. Farming families want their children to be safe and educated. Agricultural workers want to earn a fair wage and work in safe conditions free from exploitation. Farmers want to produce sustainably so they can sell their produce at a higher price. And companies seek assurance that their business partners respect human rights and follow labor laws that reduce the risk of child labor and forced labor occurring in their supply chains. This is why our 2020 Sustainable Agricultural Standard sets rigorous requirements on human rights.
Furthermore, we take a risk-based approach to help companies in their efforts. Our approach aligns with international frameworks including the International Labor Organization conventions, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
Evidence shows that some countries and sectors have higher risks of human rights violations like child labor and forced labor. So, we have tailored the implementation and verification of our standard requirements to the risk exposure of each farm. This means that we expect farms in a high-risk location or sector to pay extra attention to identifying and addressing these issues. Additionally, auditors pay extra attention to checking that appropriate measures are in place to do this.
Mapping the risks
The Rainforest Alliance Child Labor and Forced Labor Sector Risk Maps are a key component of our risk-based approach. We began developing the methodology in 2019, together with human rights consultancy Ergon Associates, and received extensive input from our field teams and child and forced labor experts. The risk maps are based on key indicators of potential incidence of child labor and forced labor. These indicators are drawn from indices—most of which are publicly available—and the Rainforest Alliance’s own research. It is important to note that the risk ratings indicate the likelihood of child labor or forced labor cases, they are not reflective of actual occurrences.
Calculating the risk scores
In short, we calculate the risk score at country level based on:
- “Structural” factors derived from national data on the regulatory and socio-economic environment. We use international indices from the World Bank, United Nations, and other internationally recognized sources. These account for 40% of the risk score.
- “Risks in practice,” a set of indicators specific to the sector in question in each country. These indicators are based on research reports from governments, NGOs, multilateral organizations, universities, news agencies, and the Rainforest Alliance’s own data. These account for 60% of the risk score.
We present the risk levels by country and commodity, starting with our four priority sectors: coffee, tea, cocoa, and bananas. It’s important to note that country and commodity sector analysis is based on national-level data. It indicates a general level of risk for the whole country, as opposed to an exact risk level for any specific farm. However, if a country and sector have a low risk designation, this does not mean zero cases of child labor or forced labor occur there. It merely means that the structural and inherent risks are low. The diagram below illustrates how we use the different inputs to determine the country risk score. We described the full methodology in our Guidance Briefing and Method Note.
For each country and sector combination, we categorize the risk of child labor or forced labor into three risk levels: low, medium, and high. These levels are based on a numeric score from 0 to 10. Scores in the bottom third (i.e. below 3.3) indicate low risk. Those in the middle (between 3.3 and 6.7) indicate medium risk. And those in the top third (above 6.7) indicate a high risk level. You can see the full risk score calculations in our data sheet.
Using risk scores to inform action
Using the risk maps for farms
In countries and sectors that the risk maps designate as medium or high risk, farms must take additional actions to identify and mitigate those risks. They must implement more robust monitoring, and apply stronger mitigation actions when risks are identified on the farm through the Farm Risk Assessment Tool. Some examples of mitigation tactics are determining the reasons why children aren’t going to school or working more closely with labor providers on labor rights commitments. The Rainforest Alliance provides guidance to certificate holders on how to implement these processes.
Subsequently, mandatory improvement requirements will become applicable over time for farms operating in medium or high-risk countries and sectors. For instance, farms and groups that operate in areas with these risk levels must ensure all group members and workers receive training on child labor and forced labor. As part of our certification program, they must also actively encourage the education of every child living on group members’ farms.
Additionally, Certification Bodies (CB) that perform Rainforest Alliance audits must take into account the risk map scores. For countries and sectors designated as high risk, the CB must take additional steps in its audit. For example, conducting more worker interviews or investing more time in auditing these issues.
Using the risk maps for companies
Risk maps are an important tool to inform human rights due diligence processes for companies. A higher risk does not mean companies should not source from a particular country or sector. It is an indication that active measures must be put in place to ensure robust due diligence processes in these areas. Buying Rainforest Alliance Certified products is one way for companies to mitigate the risks.
Overall, the Child Labor and Forced Labor Sector Risk Maps are part of our improved assurance system. We believe that the risk-based system and auditing requirements will make our certification system more tailored to local contexts, and as such, more efficient and effective.
We welcome your feedback or additional information. You can send your input to CustomerSuccess@ra.org.
Interested to hear more? We hosted an introduction webinar about the Child Labor and Forced Labor Risk Maps on June 9, 2021. Watch the recording here.
Note: These risk maps present risks at a country level, and not on a sub-national or individual producer level. They rely in part on data provided by third parties and is subject to further revision and refinement. The purpose of these risk maps is to adapt mitigation actions to risk context and to adapt requirements and assurance activities based on risk levels. They are not designed to indicate the presence or absence of the indicated issues in a country, to make sourcing decisions, or for any other purpose.
These documents and their contents are by the Rainforest Alliance and they are licensed under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will the Rainforest Alliance extend the risk maps beyond coffee, cocoa, tea, and bananas, to cover its other certified crops?
We plan to include other certified crops as we further develop the risk maps in the coming years.
Will the Rainforest Alliance extend the risk maps beyond the countries already included for coffee, tea, cocoa and bananas, to cover the countries in which farms want to get certified?
We plan to include other countries as we further develop the risk maps in the coming years.
Does the Rainforest Alliance also have risk maps on other topics?
Yes, on deforestation. However, the deforestation risk maps work differently. They are geographical maps at country level that include data on protected forest areas and deforestation levels. Geolocation data provided by certificate holders is analyzed against these maps to identify if a farm is in or near a protected area or presents a deforestation risk.
Will there be risk maps on Discrimination and Workplace Violence and Harassment?
It has been decided not to make risk maps on the topics of Discrimination and Workplace Violence and Harassment. While collecting data for the draft maps, it became clear that these topics are sensitive and information is often only partially shared, which makes it difficult to find accurate and representative data. Instead of working from a risk maps approach for these topics, the Rainforest Alliance requires large and individually certified farms to implement the in-depth risk assessment for discrimination and workplace violence and harassment, based on the fact that those issues are especially relevant for workers. Moreover, gender based discrimination and the establishing of gender sensitive assess-and-address committees and grievance mechanisms is addressed specifically in the gender risk assessments, which are compulsory for all contexts.
How will Farm Certificate Holders (CHs) use the risk maps on child labor and forced labor?
All CH are required to carry out their own self-assessment of risks at farm level which include the risks of child labor and forced labor. CHs are required to identify appropriate measures to mitigate these risks and include them in their farm management plan. The Farm Risk Assessment Tool identifies potential mitigation measures for each type of risk and for different risk levels to support producers to address these risks effectively. CHs in countries and crops with medium and high-risk map scores are required to implement more intensive mitigation measures. CHs use the risk map score to identify the appropriate mitigation measures and include those measures recommended for medium and high-risk contexts in their farm management plans. CHs in countries and sectors that are medium or high risk will also be required to implement some improvement requirements over time that are targeted to address these risks, including implementing a more in-depth risk assessment for issues of child labor and forced labor. It ensures that all group members and workers receive training on these issues, and actively encouraging the school attendance of children of staff, group members, and workers.
For the countries or crops for which there are no risk maps available, CHs will select the appropriate mitigation measures based on the risks they identify at farm level.
How will Certification Bodies use these risk maps?
Certification Bodies (CB) will use the risk maps in planning and preparing for audits. Audits of certificate holders in countries/sectors that are high risk will have additional requirements to more thoroughly verify the risks. For the countries or crops for which there are no risk maps available, the CB will use other sources to determine the level of risk at the CH. See the Certification and Auditing Rules for further information on how Certification Bodies will use Risk maps to inform audit planning and preparation.
Can NGOs use these risk maps for advocacy?
The risk maps are public resources, and as such, they can be used by anyone. They draw largely on information that is already publicly available and accessible to advocacy groups and can be a useful resource to engage proactively with government, companies, and other key stakeholders. This will help develop robust due diligence and appropriate interventions to mitigate risk and support farmers and communities to actively address the structural issues that underpin the occurrence of child labor and forced labor. Continued investment in these countries is critical to effect the changes we are all working toward.
Why is our scoring different from other sources, for example the U.S. Government ranking system?
We use the U.S. Government reports as one input, but our methodology is also based on many other sources.
Will there be risk maps per region for countries that have big regional differences?
We do not currently plan to develop regional risk maps.
Can a Certificate Holder (CH) in a country have a lower or higher risk level than other CHs? Will you adjust the risk levels to CH level?
The actual level of risk for a CH depends on many factors, which will vary from one producer to another. Therefore, CHs operating in the same country and crop may have different actual risk levels. The risk of child labor and forced labor for individual farms is determined through the Farm Risk Assessment Tool. The country level risk maps provide important information on the context which must be considered by the CH when identifying risks and selecting appropriate mitigation measures. However, the risk maps are not intended to show risk levels on a CH level—that’s the role of the Farm Risk Assessment Tool.
Why is there no distinction between small and large farms?
The risk maps are intended to indicate a general level of risk based on the national context. They are not specific to the location or type of farm. However, the “risks in practice” section of the methodology includes two questions about farm size to determine if there are factors that substantially change the level of risk for different farm types.
Why do the risk maps not distinguish between certified and non-certified?
The risk maps are intended to indicate a general level of risk based on the national context. They are not specific to the location or type of farm. This means that any farm operating in a risky country and sector will be subject to such risks and should take steps to mitigate child labor/forced labor risks, whether they are already certified or not. Rainforest Alliance Certified farms are required to take active steps to identify their actual risks and put in place measures to mitigate the risks so that there is greater transparency on these issues and progress in addressing them can be measured. With these systems in place, Rainforest Alliance Certified farms should be able to demonstrate a lower level of actual risk and more active measures to address these risks than non-certified farms operating in the same context.
How frequently will the risk maps be updated?
We intend to update the risk maps in the coming year. Afterwards, the risk maps will be updated every 3 years, but RA reserves the right to update our methodology and the risk scores more frequently, as situations warrant and resources permit.
Can the public see the details behind all risk map calculations?
I disagree with a scoring. If I have other information that might affect risk scores, what should I do?
It is important to remember that the scoring refers to a general level of risk identified at country level and is drawn from multiple sources of information produced by a range of national and international organizations. Information that might affect a risk score must therefore be at a similar level not specific to a locality, farm type or individual certificate holder. Please send your input and clarification to CustomerSuccess@ra.org, including clear argumentation as to why the risk might need to be adjusted, and if possible, please also include any other sources that support your point of view.