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June 27, 2011
ICCR Leads Investor Effort to Address Human Trafficking in Corporate Supply Chains
    by Robert Kropp

A coalition of over 90 investors calls on 27 companies in six high-risk industry sectors to join in multi-stakeholder initiatives to combat a practice that currently enslaves tens of millions of men, women, and children.

At a recent conference in Rome addressing human trafficking, Ambassador Luis C. deBaca of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Office of the US State Department stated, "Today there are by low estimates twelve and a half million, and by high estimates twenty-seven million men, women, and children living in a state of modern day slavery."

In attendance at the conference was Rev. David Schilling, the director of human rights for the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), who said, "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."

For the faith-based members of ICCR, engaging with companies on the issue of human trafficking in their supply chains has always been an "obvious moral mandate," according to an Investor Statement released today by an investor coalition representing over 90 organizations worldwide. ICCR has advocated on human rights issues since the 1980s.

However, the statement continues, "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 asks 27 companies in six industry sectors—Apparel, Travel & Tourism, Retail, Technology, Agriculture, and Food & Beverages—to take leadership roles in ending human trafficking and slavery in their supply chains.

Included among the steps for companies to take are policies and management systems that ensure the issue is being addressed, training of employees and contractors, contractual arrangements with suppliers and host governments, public-private partnerships, and annual reporting.

"Companies in the travel and tourism industry are strongly urged to adopt the ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) code addressing the sexual exploitation of Children," according to the statement.

Companies in other sectors are advised by the statement to consult the Athens Ethical Principles, which recognizes "the significant potential of the business community to contribute to the global fight against human trafficking."

All companies are also urged to review the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, endorsed this month by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Of particular importance, according to the statement, is the involvement of companies with industry groups and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in multi-stakeholder initiatives and public-private partnerships. Initiatives referred to by the statement include the Business Coalition Against Human Trafficking (BCAT) and the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking.

Lauren Compere, Senior Vice President and Director of Shareholder Advocacy at Boston Common Asset Management and a signatory to the statement, said in a press release, "As investors, we view the material risks as a compelling business argument in favor of putting formal protections in place. But there is also a powerful moral call to action for the business community at large to use its voice to raise awareness about these egregious violations."


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