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Bureau of International Labor Affairs
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A Toolkit for Responsible Businesses
Boys polishing gems

Certification Programs

Another option for developing social compliance programs is to explore existing certification programs.  These programs certify products or processes against established sets of standards; some of them confer a label on certified products in order to directly reach consumers and communicate that the product was produced under certain conditions.  

While there are few existing certification programs that confer a “child labor free” or “forced labor free” label, there are programs that include child labor, forced labor and other labor issues in their certification standards.  For example, the Fair Trade program is primarily aimed at ensuring a “fair” price for producers at the bottom of the supply chain, but producers must also meet child labor, forced labor and other labor standards in order to earn the “Fair Trade” label.  For more information, see the Fairtrade International and Fair Trade USA toolkits.  Some certification programs aim to meet the standards of the ISEAL Alliance, an association of organizations with that develops guidance on establishment and implementation of sustainability-related standards.

At the same time, some certification programs—and multi-stakeholder initiatives more broadly—have come under criticism related to governance arrangements, such as certification programs’ financing structures, balance of power among members and mechanisms for holding members accountable.  Other criticism is related to implementation, such as issues around inadequate or insufficient auditing and inadequate stakeholder outreach.  It is therefore important to understand the structure of particular programs in order to assess how they will be viewed by different stakeholders.