The holiday season is a time of bustling shopping malls, jam-pack fashion avenues, and draining bank accounts. In the mood of giving, we buy numerous gifts, from a bag of coffee for the neighbors to a new computer for our spouse. This holiday season, Human Trafficking Search invites you to consider whether or not your purchase is helping to fund human trafficking.
Although the common conception of human trafficking often leaves out forced labor, the International Labor Organization finds that of the 20.9 million people estimated to be trafficked around the world, 68% are victims of forced labor exploitation. Many of these individuals work as forced labor within major corporate supply chains. We buy from these brands throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season.
Just last week at the Human Rights First Human Rights Summit, experts gathered to discuss the most pressing human rights issues, one being human trafficking. In a panel discussion on eradicating human trafficking from supply chains, three experts in the field provided insight on what the US and other governments can do to address this issue. Carlos Busquets of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition described how more adept auditing protocols and tighter codes can help ensure supply chains are free from trafficking. Bama Athreya, Senior Specialist of Labor Employment Rights at USAID, discussed using limited funds wisely to address systemic issues. She discussed a situation in the Jordanian apparel industry, where an ILO “Better Work” program was implemented to monitor and improve compliance. Lastly, Michael Posner, professor at NYU Stern School for Business, outlined that the solution would involve four stakeholders: government, private industries, international financial institutions, and philanthropic organizations. He emphasized partnership, as the “mega-problem” cannot be solved by one stakeholder alone.
Clearly, this issue is not easily solved. For one, companies are often not aware that various suppliers utilize forced labor. There are numerous tools available to support companies in ensuring that their supply chains steer clear of human trafficking. The organization Made in A Free World created the Forced Labor Risk Determination and Mitigation protocol and the Slavery Footprint to aid businesses in eradicating trafficking from their supply chains. However, despite these tools, companies often neglect contractors and sub-contractors connected to their supply chains, thus narrowing the scope of their responsibility. According to Posner, companies are nervous to go beyond their direct relationships because if they encounter a problem, they will have the responsibility to fix it.
One important stakeholder often left out of the picture of building compliance and accountability is the consumer population. We have the power and responsibility to reject companies whose supply chains use forced labor. This holiday season (and throughout the year for that matter), we can choose to be selective about the brands we invest in, in order to ensure that we are not funding the continuation of modern-day slavery.
Free 2 Work, a project of Not for Sale, issues reports and company ratings on numerous industries. Their information may be a valuable resource when planning your gift shopping list. Happy Holidays!
Firas Nasr is the Director of Communications at Human Trafficking Search.
Photo Credit: New York Times