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| 1 minute read

Upsurge in handwashing has high cost on human rights

Verisk Maplecroft has released their Human Rights Outlook of 2020 and it is always a worthy read. This year, I have learned an incredible amount about PPE production, especially in the light of the current pandemic, and supply chain challenges that come with it, but potentially I had not given hand-sanitizer enough thought.

Verisk Maplecroft’s Human Rights Outlook of 2020 talks, beyond many other topics, about the risk in this supply chain and that to distill ethanol (the key ingredient in the manufacturing of hand sanitizer) sugarcane is used.

Sugarcane already poses a ”high” or “extreme risk” of child labor, modern slavery, and deforestation in countries such as Brazil, India, Mexico, and Thailand, yet the report writes that they anticipate the situation to worsen “[w]ith strict travel restrictions still in place in many countries, manufacturers of hand sanitizers and other products containing ethanol will find it increasingly difficult to maintain adequate control of standards in their sugarcane supply chains. Audits of raw material suppliers have proved impossible for Western brands. As a result, workers in producing countries are likely to see labor rights worsen as the sugarcane business booms – driven, ironically, by the need to safeguard the health of people across the globe.”

It is painful to read this in detail in this report and I appreciate the Verisk Maplecroft report highlighting this concern, so companies producing and distributing hand-sanitizer may consider taking extra steps in performing due diligence of their supply chain.

2020 has turned the global risk environment on its head. Countries and companies the world over are struggling to come to terms with the primary health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, but secondary human rights and political risks are starting to emerge and combine to provide a combustible mix of issues in the operations and supply chains of business.


supply chain, global pandemic, hand sanitizer, verisk maplecroft, human rights outlook 2020, sugarcane, human rights, hand washing, forced labor, child labor, deforestation, ethical sourcing