Forum Examines How to Purge Supply Chains of Human Trafficking

L-R: Ronnie Goldberg (USCIB), Christine Bader (Kennan Institute), David Arkless (ManpowerGroup), Letty Ashworth (Delta Airlines), Dirk Vande Beek (Travelport)
L-R: Ronnie Goldberg (USCIB), Christine Bader (Kennan Institute), David Arkless (ManpowerGroup), Letty Ashworth (Delta Airlines), Dirk Vande Beek (Travelport)

An estimated 27 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, which can take many forms – affecting men, women and children – and is making its presence felt in global supply chains.  To help companies understand the scope of the problem and take appropriate steps to address it, USCIB joined with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the International Organization of Employers, part of our global network, to organize a February 14 forum, “Engaging Business: Addressing Human Trafficking in Labor Sourcing,” at the Atlanta headquarters of The Coca-Cola Company.

Common forms of human trafficking include bonded labor, debt bondage, fraud, coercion, and other forms of modern slavery. Often it involves migration of legal workers – within a country and across borders – who have been misled by recruiters into assuming coercive debt and loss of their travel papers.  This forum focused on trafficking in the workplace, mainly via labor sourcing.

Human trafficking is increasing being targeted in policy and regulatory efforts.  In 2000, the United Nations adopted the Palermo Protocol to the UN Organized Crime Convention, and the United States enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  Three-quarters of the world’s nations have ratified the treaty, and two-thirds have passed laws against trafficking.  Since the beginning of this year, the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 requires California manufacturers and retailers with over $100 million in annual worldwide gross receipts to disclose their efforts to eliminate slavery and human trafficking from their direct supply chains.

Kevin Bales, president of the NGO Free the Slaves
Kevin Bales, president of the NGO Free the Slaves

The prohibition of human trafficking is a human right that requires immediate due diligence of supply chains by business, and mitigating action where it exists.  The one-day program focused on potential business impacts, national and international legal trends, networks, strategies and best practices for eliminating human trafficking in labor sourcing.  Attendees gained a better understanding of the various forms of human trafficking in labor sourcing, the scope of legal and stakeholder expectations, and how to identify and address instances of human trafficking in labor sourcing.

Also at the forum, USCIB member ManpowerGroup and the NGO Verite launched a new guide to help companies prevent trafficking in their labor sourcing, “An Ethical Framework for Cross-Border Labor Recruitment,” a detailed framework for combating human trafficking and forced labor.

“Today’s environment requires businesses to be global and talent to be mobile, therefore ManpowerGroup has made it a priority to be at the forefront of ensuring that global recruitment markets operate transparently and ethically,” said David Arkless, ManpowerGroup’s president of global corporate and government affairs.  “Leading firms already commit to high ethical standards, but too many other operators exploit workers through recruitment debt, fraudulent contract substitution, and other forms of abuse.  And even well-intentioned businesses face reputational risk from unwittingly becoming entangled with unethical partners.”

Click here for more information on the ManpowerGroup-Verite initiative.

It was clear from the presentations and discussion at the forum that this is a highly complex issue, but that there are steps that companies can and should take to minimize the risk of trafficking in activities linked to their operations.

Staff contact: Adam Greene

More on USCIB’s Corporate Responsibility Committee

More on USCIB’s Labor and Employment Policy Committee

Staff Contact:   Gabriella Rigg Herzog

VP, Corporate Responsibility and Labor Affairs
Tel: 212.703.5056

Gabriella Rigg Herzog leads USCIB policy and programs on corporate responsibility, international labor standards and corporate governance. She manages USCIB engagement with its affiliated organizations, U.S. government agencies, and United Nations agencies on international corporate responsibility principles, codes of conduct and multi-stakeholder initiatives, as well as international and transnational regulatory activities on labor and employment policies, sustainable development and corporate governance.
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