Erasing Modern Slavery’s Footprint

Human Resources executives at multinational corporations face the age-old issue of slave labor existing in their supply chains, and that topic was recently brought to the forefront when President Obama launched a White House initiative to end modern slavery, called Made in a Free World.

Using the interactive website, Slavery Footprint, people can calculate how many forced laborers were likely involved in the manufacture of products they use every day. Results from completed surveys show that most people have an average of 34 slaves working for them. The new Made in a Free World uses the Slavery Footprint tool to help companies identify where forced labor may exist within their supply chains. They can then work with independent auditors – such as Verité and the Fair Labor Association — to ensure that no forced labor is used in the making of their products. Justin Dillon, founder and chief executive of Slavery Footprint, says that addressing the issue of human trafficking on a company-wide level is the first step in eradicating it.

Tackling world-wide slavery sounds daunting, but companies that do so will reap unforeseen benefits. Says U.S. State Department Deputy Director Alison Kiehl Friedman, “One of the things that we have found that has been compelling companies to take the time to make sure they’re sourcing labor appropriately, is that not only is it the right thing to do, but it has real, positive business consequences. Establishing best practices to address human trafficking will ensure that you hire the best-qualified people; who are happy and committing to a job where they know what they’re committing to. … An unhappy workforce diminishes the quality of the product and causes delays, because people who don’t want to be where they are don’t usually have the requisite skills. Companies that eradicate forced labor in their supply chains realize long-range savings and added brand value and reliability.”

Made in a Free World doesn’t point fingers, it looks for solutions. One of those solutions is to have a policy against recruitment fees.  Workers who have paid high fees to get their jobs are put so deeply in debt that they never realize the salary. Recruiters can threaten the workers and their families, who have been put up as collateral for insurmountable debt.

“There are a number of powerful institutions lining up to hold companies accountable,” says  Dan Viederman, CEO of Veritéworks, adding that any company engaging with the federal government must now prove that their products are slavery-free. He points to the 2010 California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which took effect on January 1, 2012. “The act requires companies to disclose steps they’ve taken to ensure there’s no forced labor in their operations.”

Learn more at Jill Cueni-Cohen’s Human Resource Executive Online article: Erasing Modern Slavery’s Footprint.

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