For far too long businesses have ignored the risk of forced labor in corporate supply chains — a situation that reflects the failure not just of business, but of society at large to confront the inconvenient truth of modern day slavery. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that today as many as 21 million people are victims of forced labor.
According to the Institute for Human Rights and Business, combating forced labor and human trafficking is one of top ten business and human rights issues for 2013. Positive steps toward finally changing the climate for business action are:
- The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which mandates that companies that do business in California post on their websites what policies and practices they have in place to address human trafficking in their supply chains
- President Obama’s executive order that strengthens prohibitions against human trafficking related activities in federal contracts.
- Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) and Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility using the opportunities of the World Cup and other large sporting events to encourage the hotel sector to take steps to prevent human trafficking, including pledging to follow a code of conduct developed by the anti-trafficking group, ECPAT.
- In 2011 the organization, Verite, which has made forced labor and human trafficking a key focus of its work with companies, launched its “fair hiring” website and toolkit, “to help direct the many stakeholder groups with the questions needed to ask and steps needed to take in order to eradicate forced labor and slavery in supply chains.”
- The International Labor Rights Forum launched its Free2Work app, which helps consumers evaluate the efforts of brands to address forced labor and child labor. That complemented the work of another newly launched initiative, the Slavery Footprint.
- President Obama announced four business initiatives: the Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking; the US Travel Association’s anti-trafficking toolkit; the Goldman Sachs Foundation-sponsored research partnership with Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Advisory Council on Child Trafficking, focused on prevention of child sex trafficking and treatment of survivors.
At last, business – and society – appears ready to face the issue. Let’s hope for the sake of vulnerable workers around the world that 2013 brings results.
Learn more at Joanne Bauer’s Corporate Responsibility Newswire article: Modern-Day Slavery and Human Trafficking: Is Business Ready to Face Up to It?