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May 24, 2011
Investors Call for End to Human Trafficking in Corporate Supply Chains
    by Robert Kropp

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility issues a statement detailing ethical and financial cases for addressing human trafficking in supply chains, and sends letters to 25 companies calling for comprehensive policies on the issue.

According to the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT), an estimated 2.5 million people are victims of human trafficking, and 161 countries are affected by the practice.

"Trafficking invariably involves forcible movement of a person from one place to another and forcible utilization of their services with the intention of inducting them into trade for commercial gains," the Initiative states. The majority of trafficking victims are between 18 and 24 years of age, and 95% of victims have been subjected to physical or sexual violence.

Investor initiatives to pressure companies to address the issue of human trafficking have met with some success, although the practice remains widespread. The End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT) created the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism for the travel industry, and Boston Common Asset Management successfully engaged with Marriott International on the issue. The company agreed to implement training programs to address criminal activities taking place at its locations worldwide.

During the past year, Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) has led investor engagements with hotel companies in South Africa and Dallas, urging them to take action to prevent the sexual exploitation of children and other human trafficking crimes at the World Cup and the Super Bowl.

CBIS is a member of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), which has called human trafficking "globalization's darkest secret." Last week, ICCR members sent an Investor Statement to 25 companies from the apparel, agriculture, food and beverage, travel and tourism, technology, and retail industries, calling on them "to ensure that they are not inadvertently complicit in human rights violations, specifically, violations associated with human trafficking and modern day slavery, including child labor, forced labor and slave labor."

"Beyond the obvious moral mandate, non-compliance on human rights issues, including human trafficking and modern day slavery, carries genuine material and reputational risk which could deleteriously impact the value of our investments," the statement continued, pointing to recent legislative actions such as the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010. The bill requires companies with revenues of more than $100 million doing business in the state to publish on their websites their policies addressing slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains.

ICCR members are calling on companies to integrate a human rights policy and the assessment of impacts into oversight and monitoring programs; include in contracts with suppliers and agreements with governments a clause "stating a common repudiation of human trafficking;" and report annually on performance relating to human trafficking issues.

"Companies need to go beyond individual initiatives to partner with other industry leaders and non-governmental organizations in multi-stakeholder initiatives and public-private partnerships that are actively confronting this issue," the statement asserts. It recommends that companies participate in initiatives such as the Business Coalition against Human Trafficking (BCAT), formed last year. BCAT currently has ten corporate members.

According to an ICCR spokesperson, a list of companies receiving the letter will be released after it has been sent to them in mid-June.


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