When we learned in the summer of 2013 that inspectors from Brazil’s Ministry of Labor found evidence that 15 coffee farms had employed workers under what the country calls “conditions analogous to slavery,” we were shocked. The revelation raised lots of questions: What does “slavery” mean in Brazil in 2013? How widespread is the practice in the coffee sector? What does it look like? And, perhaps most importantly, what can be done to address it?
For answers to those questions, we turned to Repórter Brasil, a longtime CRS partner and a leader in Brazil’s campaign to eradicate modern slavery. Today, we present the answers to those questions during Re:co Atlanta, and together with Repórter Brasil, we publish answers to those questions in this policy brief. It includes recommendations of what policymakers, coffee industry leaders and coffee consumers in Brazil and the United States can do to help eradicate modern slavery from the coffee sector, starting in Brazil.
The good news is that the systems that made this information available to us—Brazil’s progressive laws, aggressive enforcement and deep commitment to transparency—have created the conditions to eradicate slave labor entirely from the world’s most important coffee-growing country. What will it take?
For policymakers in Brazil, it means earmarking more funds for coffee-sector monitoring and creating a special forum at the Ministry of Agriculture to support improved performance on labor issues. For their counterparts in the United States, it means continued allocation of funds for programs to fight human trafficking and slavery and passage of the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act, for starters.
For coffee companies in Brazil, it means embracing the terms of the National Pact to Eradicate Slave Labor and joining InPACTO, a creative platform for ongoing private-sector engagement to rid Brazil’s supply chains of slave labor. For coffee companies in the United States, it means encouraging your Brazilian trading partners to join InPACTO and accompanying them as they make a public commitment to eliminate slave labor from coffee supply chains.
And for coffee consumers in both countries, it means encouraging your elected officials and favorite coffee companies to adopt the measures recommended here.
It won’t be easy. But thanks to more than 20 years of relentless innovation by leaders in Brazil’s public, private and non-profit sectors, the path to total eradication of slave labor may be shorter there than anywhere else in the world.
Download the CRS Coffeelands Program Policy Brief Farmworker Protections and Labor Conditions in Brazil’s Coffee Sector