“In the midst of our COVID-19 pandemic, there are rising calls for government and business to form a ‘new social contract’. This would tackle the immediate economic hardship, and more fairly share the burdens and benefits from our economies. This comes from actors as diverse as the International Trade Union Congress and the Financial Times. In contrast, too many business leaders appear willing to abandon their ‘social license to operate’ by passing the costs of this crisis to vulnerable workers in their supply chains. This approach not only exacerbates the immediate humanitarian suffering but also polarises further our unequal societies, creating greater public distrust of markets.

The scale and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic grows each day. This is also true for its impact on business and for the rights of workers and communities that depend on those businesses for their livelihoods. Millions of workers have been laid off in the supply chain factories of Asia and Latin America; the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association reports that a quarter of the 4 million garment workers are laid-off or sacked through to mass cancellations of fast fashion orders; ten million workers have registered as unemployed in the United States in two weeks. These are just a few examples of the harm catalogued in our portal on the impact of COVID-19 on business and human rights.”