Marking the end of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, USCIB staff and members took part in a January 29 White House forum on combating human trafficking in supply chains, to address the pernicious incidences of labor trafficking around the world. The Obama administration committed to an agenda to combat human trafficking in 2012, and USCIB supports the administration’s stance and agrees that forceful labor recruitment has no place in business.
Ariel Meyerstein, USCIB’s vice president for labor affairs, corporate responsibility and corporate governance, attended the forum along with other representatives from the private sector, nongovernmental organizations and the U.S. government to discuss how all stakeholders can work together to eliminate trafficking in federal contracts and in private-sector supply chains.
Meyerstein noted that Secretary of State John Kerry “spoke eloquently on the moral imperative on all of us to work towards ensuring that no human being could ever own another person’s freedom.”
USCIB member representatives – including Bob Mitchell, global manager for supply chain responsibility at Hewlett-Packard and Wesley Wilson, senior director of responsible sourcing at Wal-Mart – spoke on a panel addressing “Private Sector Strategies to Combat Human Trafficking in Supply Chains.” The panelists shared their companies’ best practices for combating human trafficking, which included directly employing and paying all workers, working with foreign governments to prevent labor trafficking and implementing fair and transparent labor standards.
When asked what more could be done by the U.S. government to reinforce and amplify the work they are doing, both Mitchell and Wilson encouraged the U.S. government to engage bilaterally with other countries to impress upon them how seriously the U.S. government and U.S. businesses take the issue and to develop the prevention and enforcement capacities in other jurisdictions to complement private sector efforts.
Secretary Kerry also delivered remarks at the forum and presented the 2015 Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program.
Last week the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council, the body responsible for overseeing U.S. government procurement, published updates about new safeguards designed to strengthen protections against trafficking in federal contracts. These new rules, modeled on successful private sector practices, prohibit federal contractors from charging employees recruitment fees or using misleading or fraudulent recruitment practices, require contractors and subcontractors performing work valued at over $500,000 outside the United States to develop and maintain a compliance plan, and to certify that, to the best of their knowledge, neither they nor any of their subcontractors has engaged in trafficking-related activities.
USCIB has been active in the corporate responsibility space, having recently co-hosted a dialogue on responsible business conduct as part of President Obama’s plan to implement the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and will continue to work with the federal government and other stakeholders to eliminate human trafficking in supply chains.