- A recent investigation led by Fairfax Media and ABC's 7.30 revealed Australia's fruit supply chain often engages in the employment and exploitation of illegal workers, after going undercover to learn about the working conditions.
- The incident revealed supply chains are vulnerable grounds for unethical practices in many countries, often times with contractors serving as liaisons willing to conceal illegalities while offering plausible deniability for buying organizations, Forbes reported Tuesday.
- Equally important, Forbes noted the incident shows breaches in supply chain ethics can originate in developed countries as well, as unregistered workers are paid below minimum wage to keep prices low.
A light is being shined on the hiring practices of many companies throughout the world, as journalists and human rights advocates set out to investigate business ethics. Meanwhile, companies who move voluntarily toward greater transparency in the supply chain are increasing, and with watchdogs sniffing out violators such as Cutri Fruit, the pressure and incentive will continue to mount.
When in early September The Gap released its first supplier list, Human Rights Watch applauded the company's move toward greater transparency. Gap had gone through a dark revelation in 2004 that over 50% of its Sub-Saharan factories did not comply with safety procedures, while up to a quarter of its suppliers in China engaged in psychological coercion or verbal abuse. Since then, Gap has served as a leader in supply chain to preemptively uncover these illegal practices.
Because of the supply chain's nature, though, transparency will always be an issue.
Buyers are rarely able to investigate the sources from which they purchase goods, so for companies who voluntarily create an open list of factories and growers, the demand for ethical practice in hiring can be pushed along the supply chain. But as we have seen through the results of this investigation into Cutri Fruit, the combined diligence of human rights advocates and journalists can have a prominent role to play as well in building an environment of ethics, replacing the historical shroud and darkness of secrecy that has exploited the migrant working community.