November 2023

Annual Progress Report 2022-2023

Collective Projects 

Year 4 brought about significant achievements through collective efforts within the Metals Agreement.

 Operational Health and Safety at Andean Mines – CNV Internationaal, Tata Steel & Wuppermann Staal

Interviews with workers and stakeholders in the Operational Health and Safety investigation in Andean mines deepened the parties’ understanding of challenges in the informal sector, such as hazardous working conditions. This critical information guides the design of targeted interventions to protect vulnerable communities and enhance working conditions. The research phase has been finalised, resulting in the publication of this research report. Read more about this project on the website of CNV Internationaal.

Tata Steel Nederland has been a member of the IRBC since 2019 and has seen the power of collaboration between NGOs, unions, companies and the government. The Improving Occupational Health & Safety @ work in Andean mines project proves how valuable true collaboration can be.”

Peter Suasso de Lima de Prado, Head of Sustainability Tata Steel

Discussion with companies and industry associations outside of the Agreement is ongoing for the project in Peru and Bolivia. The international interest in possibly joining or supporting this project shows the growing interest in, and appreciation of, a multi-stakeholder approach to address challenges in value chains.

 Insight in IRBC Risks in Metals Recycling in India – Global March Against Child Labour & Krommenhoek Metals

Global March Against Child Labour and Krommenhoek Metals jointly started a project to get in-depth insights in the risk of child labour in the metals recycling value chain in India. The research phase has been completed and provided them with concrete insights and results. A desired follow-up step is to initiate a collective project, although it appeared difficult to engage with other companies and local stakeholders.

Krommenhoek Metals

The research provided concrete results and insights in the sector. For example, the research has shown that notifications about the presence of child labour have been made in the informal value chain. This concerns people (including children) who pick up stray metals from the streets and other places and sell these to local traders. These traders exchange the metals through the value chain, and these metals potentially end up in the metals flows of buyers of processed secondary metals from India. Another outcome of the research showed that on local secondary and waste metals processing sites, young adults operate under dangerous working conditions. This involves heavy and dangerous work such as handling heavy machinery and working conditions in smelters. The research has further identified that there is sometimes a lack of safety measures such as the necessary protective clothing.

The biggest bottleneck is the lack of willingness of local Indian partners and processing locations to contribute to the research. The identified risks apply to a broad research in the specified regions where our buyers are also located. However, specific partners were not yet willing to share information about their facilities. Therefore, it is unclear whether these IRBC risks actually take place at the facilities of our business partners and whether these are part of our value chain.

The biggest challenge is to find fellow metals recyclers who are interested to collaborate and to build more leverage together to conduct thorough research. This is mainly caused by the competition among recycling companies. They wish to protect commercial information. It is difficult for a single company to make a stand, but with three other partners the collective leverage would be stronger. More cooperation is essential. Therefore, we call to all fellow entrepreneurs: if you are reading this and you wish to collaborate: the door is open!

Another challenge is the lack of consumer awareness about human rights risks in metals value chains. Consumer awareness on sustainability is more visible in other sectors such as the coffee, chocolate or clothing sector. Few people are aware of their metals consumption and the associated value chain risks. More awareness and increased pressure from consumers helps to realise change in the metals sector.

 “Thanks to the Agreement, we come into contact with parties more quickly. For example, last year we were able to carry out a study into risks in our value chain regarding working conditions and child labour. This is a necessary development given the shortcomings in research into this in the field of metals recycling.”

Bas Krommenhoek, Krommenhoek Metals

Global March Against Child Labour

In 2022 and 2023, Global March Against Child Labour conducted research into the secondary metals value chain in India. This was not expected to be easy and it turned out to be even more difficult than expected. Not only did a lot of work turn out to be informal, but the companies are informal too: officially the companies do not exist. Therefore, these cannot be addressed as a legal entity and as such do not adhere to any rules. These informal companies also appeared unwilling to give the researchers access to their business activities.

Interviews with employees and other stakeholders have provided a good picture of the most important bottlenecks in the value chain. Child labour certainly plays a role in the collection and delivery of secondary metals. This is an expected outcome, although the scale seems larger than previously thought. Further research into this is needed.

The most important IRBC risks lie in the field of working conditions. Dangerous work is done without the necessary protective equipment. This leads to injuries and temporary or permanent loss of work. When employees become injured or disabled, they are on their own. This makes employees and their families very vulnerable.

Global March Against Child Labour would like to work on improvements in the secondary metals value chain. The organisation can work with communities to reduce child labour and improve the position of workers. To make this possible, an Indian company is sought at the beginning of Agreement year 5 to help submit the application for the follow-up project subsidy. Krommenhoek Metals remains involved in the project.

"We have identified risks and see opportunities to address them. Hopefully we can move on quickly!"

Marco Dubbelt, Global March Against Child Labour