Businesses Vulnerable to Human Trafficking

Shareholders are calling on 15 U.S.-based multinational corporations to ensure that their global supply chains are not facilitating human rights abuses, particularly labor and sex trafficking.

In a new campaign running throughout January, the Interfaith Centre on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), which represents 300 shareholder organizations managing around 100 billion dollars in assets, is focusing on two sectors in particular, hospitality and food agriculture. These industries – which include hotels, airlines, restaurant chains, large retailers and agribusiness companies – are seen as particularly at risk for rights violations.

“To properly fight abuses like human trafficking, we all have a role to play – and business must become part of the solution through putting into practice respect for human rights and ensuring their partners, suppliers, subsidiaries and agents do the same,” Amol Mehra, director of the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable.

ICCR is now urging 15 U.S.-based corporations in particular to take a series of steps in this regard. These include agribusiness giants (ADM and ConAgra), retailers (Costco, Kroger, Target and Walmart), airlines (Delta, US Airways and Southwest), hotel chains (Hyatt, Starwood, Choice) and others.

The group’s members recently released a new set of principles and recommendations that would lead companies to make specific declarations to ensure that the entities within their supply chain will comply with a host of international agreements aimed at cracking down on various forms of human trafficking. Companies are also urged to publish regular updates on steps taken in this direction, as well as analysis of their impact.

“Hotels, motels and others in the entertainment sector are all vulnerable to sex trafficking, and we’ve seen that if these types of businesses open their eyes they may find trafficking taking place within their operations,” Karen Stauss, director of programs at Free the Slaves. “While agriculture is a bit different, all across the world this is a sector where workers are very ill-paid, often coming from rural areas where they may not have a strong education, including on their rights. Without a doubt there is no way that we’ll solve the human trafficking problem until multinational corporations get involved – they have huge buying power and thus can access much farther down the supply chains.”

“Unfortunately, we still constantly see companies using the language of ‘impossibility’, claiming that their supply chains are so long that it is impossible to tackle these problems,” she says. “The way I see it, this is just a lack of vision and creativity. The information and communications technology industry, for instance, has been pushed to take this on [due to U.S. legislation] and we’re now seeing that sector doing things that five years ago they said were impossible.”

Learn more at Carey L. Biron’s Inter Press Service News Agency article: Hospitality, Agriculture Firms Vulnerable to Human Trafficking.

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