As part of his ongoing mission to show conclusively that clean recruiting is both the right thing to do, and good business, CIERTO Co-Founder Joe Martinez participated in a virtual panel sponsored by the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Fair Recruitment Initiative (FRI), working with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE).

CIERTO Co-Founder & CEO, Joe Martinez

The FRI was launched in 2014 as one part of the ILO’s Fair Migration Agenda. The goals of the FRI include providing specific guidance and labor standards that incorporate global policy dialogue, knowledge and data generation, and on-the-ground interventions where tools are tested and implemented, and where expertise is created.

Currently entering Phase II, the FRI has been a key aspect of ILO’s work with international recruiting and has brought renewed attention and visibility to the challenges of incentivizing and implementing clean, ethical recruitment practices. 

As a long-time participant in conversations on international labor standards, and an expert in the business case for clean recruiting, Joe was asked to present to a panel consisting of clean recruiting leaders from across the agricultural industry.

Under his leadership, over the last few years CIERTO has emerged as the leading recruitment firm practicing exclusively ethical recruiting, in the process demonstrating that ethics and profits are not mutually exclusive in this field.

So many growers and retailers see ethical recruiting as a ‘social cause.’ Our goal is to demonstrate that it’s also good business. This is still a challenge, because ethical and fair recruitment just isn’t incentivized.


But we are seeing some bigger retailers like Walmart, Costco, or McDonald’s start to realize that their customers want this and hopefully this means they’ll be applying some pressure to their vendors to take a look at their recruiting practices.

CIERTO’s success shows that the private sector has an important role to play when it comes to increasing the visibility and viability of clean recruiting.

In fact, Joe points out that the best – and probably only – way to ensure that workers are protected and that businesses are profitable is for the recruiting pipeline to function as a network of mutually beneficial partners.

One of our biggest challenges when entering into an ethical recruitment process is that this isn’t just one factor… It’s an ecosystem. We have to accept that we cannot do this alone.

It requires us to work with… a network of partners in Mexico in communities of origin, including NGOs, church groups, government officials, and agencies. This network helps us to make sure we’re keeping our model and implementation 100% ethical and transparent.

Joe Martinez, Co-Founder & CEO of CIERTO

Going to communities of origin is critical to CIERTO’s conception of clean recruitment. Martinez says that it’s really the only way to effectively and accurately establish the true cost of the recruiting process, above and beyond the raw dollar figures for wages, transportation, and housing. 

To really understand issues workers face coming to the US, as a recruiter, you need to be present in workers’ communities of origin. 

  • How much does it cost to inform recruits correctly?
  • How do we remove fear from the process?
  • How do we eliminate the fees and extortion that exist today in the system?

Answering these questions will allow workers to truly and fully engage with the recruitment process with fully informed consent. Answering these questions will allow workers to trust that they can inform us when they see problems or when the process.

And going into communities of origin is the only way to address these questions.

The Business Case for Clean Recruiting

One of the most important aspects of CIERTO’S mission is making the business case for clean recruiting.

The private sector is concerned that the social activism element of our process will interfere with the supply chain. More informed, committed workers are key to overcoming this perception.

It’s important that we all realize that ag workers are actually a skilled workforce and need to be treated that way, the same way we recognize the expertise that other workers bring to their jobs. 

When workers come with an understanding of their job and knowledge of what they’re doing and where they’ll be working, they’re more efficient, more productive, more profitable employees.”

We’re also proud to produce a workforce that’s excited to return to the same farms year after year, becoming experts at efficiently growing and harvesting the crops they produce.

On the regulatory side of the equation, growers and retailers need to understand that the current recruiting model can cost them dearly, in both reputation and revenue. CIERTO works with employers to help them recognize the liability they face and that is inherent in the corrupt recruiting practices as they exist today.

New Tools of the Trade

One of FRI’s critical needs is for good data to inform the creation and implementation of effective recruiting incentives and programs. 

Another way CIERTO has answered this need is by creating and field-testing worker survey tools that can identify issues and address them proactively. 

The surveys take the form of 3 questionnaires that are administered to employees: one before the work season starts, performed in the workers communities of origin; one during the work season, and one after the workers have returned home.  

The surveys are conducted through a custom app developed for this purpose, which connects to a database that will allow partners to assess the data created and turn it into actionable knowledge that will help all the links in the supply chain do a better, more profitable job. 

In Joe’s opinion, the most salient point consumers, recruiters, growers and retailers should come away with is that we all have a part to play in clean, ethical recruiting, starting with recruiters who go directly to communities of origin:

Effective, fair, transparent recruitment really starts in communities of origin and with a process that shows that you went to those communities and that you can demonstrate and verify that you’re abiding by all the laws and policies of both the country of origin, and the country of destination.

WE need to recognize the role of networks and partners, and the role of incentivizing clean recruitment ALONG WITH our focus on workers’ rights.

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