Advancing Human Rights in the Thai Fish Supply Chain
Mars Petcare sources fish in Thailand, and because serious human rights risks have been reported in the seafood sector in Southeast Asia, we began activating our Thai Fish Human Rights Action Plan in 2016.
This plan is part of our global approach to advance respect for human rights and to take action against forced labor, as outlined in our Human Rights Policy. It aligns with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which describe the primary duty of governments to protect rights, along with the role of companies to respect rights.
We believe that business, governments, and civil society groups must work together urgently to understand and address human rights risks in the seafood sector, including forced labor risks. The risks that may be present across the sector can include excess work hours, dangerous working conditions, or migrant workers becoming indebted due to recruiters charging excessive fees for jobs.
In this first phase of work, we mapped our Thai fish supply chain to the vessel level and verified that traceability processes are in place. We gained new insights on working conditions to target action, and we tested a range of approaches to improve conditions on land and at sea with expert partners. Some of key milestones to date include:
- Our first-tier suppliers put in place third-party grievance hotlines at our request, providing more than 50,000 workers with a confidential way to report issues and receive assistance.
- We supported human rights training for suppliers, pier owners and vessel owners — reaching more than 80 managers, to help them understand these issues and develop good practice systems to address them.
- We tested new technology to improve traceability and connect fishers to cellular service while at sea, with our supplier Thai Union. We built on those learnings in a new partnership with USAID.
- We joined the Board of the Seafood Taskforce to influence industry-wide impact in this coalition tackling environmental and social challenges. We championed a focus on international tuna supply chains and the first Social Code of Conduct for vessels.
- We co-chaired the Consumer Goods Forum’s Forced Labor Taskforce and led its Priority Industry Principles against Forced Labor — driving more focus and action from global manufacturers and retailers across supply chains.
After five years of work, we’re evaluating what we’ve learned and what challenges still need to be overcome. In 2020, the International Labour Organization reported some progress in Thailand’s legal framework and enforcement but underscored that more action is needed to stop forced labor risks. These issues are deeply rooted, complex and require major systemic change. Businesses at every level of the supply chain must take responsibility to ensure rights are respected in their workforce — conducting human rights due diligence and strengthening their own systems to identify, address and prevent human rights risks. Few businesses in this sector have robust, ongoing human rights management systems in place today. While Mars Petcare cannot solve these issues alone, we are committed to driving improvements by partnering with government and others — working toward a Thai fish supply chain where human rights are respected at every level.
In the next phase of our human rights work in Thailand we’re prioritizing these actions:
- Consolidating our supply chain and shifting our procurement model where feasible in order to increase our visibility, influence & leverage.
- Activating our Next Generation Supplier Program with all of our Tier 1 suppliers — a longer-term engagement model to drive supplier ownership and capacity to identify and address forced labor risks, among other human rights issues.
- Initiating multi-year collaborations designed to improve efforts to monitor, address, and prevent human rights risks for local and international fishing vessels, supported by third-party experts.
- Continuing work with fishermen drop-in centers & scalable connectivity-at-sea technology.
- More targeted advocacy, continued leadership in the Seafood Taskforce and an emphasis on support for tangible action to promote responsible recruitment — including providing more detailed expectations to relevant suppliers and engaging with governments to strengthen national approaches to human rights.
Our ultimate objective is that effective human rights management systems are in place in our Thai fish supply chain, helping to ensure that all workers are treated with fairness, dignity and respect.
We will expand this work across our global fish supply chain where it’s needed, building on what we learn in Thailand. In 2021 we aim to review the sustainability performance of all our global fish suppliers and identify priority areas to address, using the third-party platform EcoVadis and input from other expert partners.
COVID-19 and the Thai Fishing Sector
COVID-19 is disrupting lives and economies around the world. Mars invested an initial $5 million in 2020 with the global nonprofit CARE to support emergency response and recovery efforts in key sourcing regions, with a focus on supporting the most vulnerable. This included Thai fishing and seafood processing communities, where the COVID-19 crisis has affected workers in our supply chain. In Thailand, CARE is working through its local network of partners across six provinces to provide emergency aid, training and support. Through this work:
- More than 20,000 people have been reached with health & hygiene prevention messages.
- 21,000 families received hygiene kits.
- Food support has reached 600 seafood industrial workers.
- More than 600 care packages of supplies have been provided to support Children’s Learning Centers, with a focus on migrant workers and their families.
- More than 300 people have been provided with cash support.
- More than 300 community leaders, mostly women, have been trained on worker rights, gender-based violence prevention and COVID-19 hygiene practices.
Our Progress Updates
We invite you to visit this page regularly for updates.