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January 31, 2012
Investors Team with Law Enforcement Professionals to Combat Sex Trafficking at Super Bowl
    by Robert Kropp

Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility members warn that child sex trafficking increases during large sporting events, and engage with Indianapolis hotels to raise awareness of the risk at this year's Super Bowl.


This year's Super Bowl, featuring the New York Giants and the New England Patriots in a rematch of their classic battle in the 2008 game, promises to be one of the highest-profile sporting events of the year. "The event has also played out as a corporate extravaganza that, for many travelers, is a weeklong business trip with expense account spending on a truly epic scale," the New York Times reported.

Sadly, the excitement surrounding the Super Bowl and other major sporting events is too often accompanied by expressions of the darkest side of human behavior. According to the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), "Traffickers in the sex trade are gearing up for their most profitable weekend of the year. Because trafficking is reported to peak at large sporting events and hotels are the prime venue for prostitution, shareholders have initiated a multi-pronged campaign to keep hotels trafficking free during Super Bowl weekend and beyond."

Specifically, ICCR members "are once again coordinating with local law enforcement to raise awareness of the risks of child sex trafficking during the Super Bowl."

Human trafficking permeates the fabric of the global economy. According to the US State Department's 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report, an estimated 12.3 million people are victims of forced labor and human trafficking, and 1.2 million children are trafficked every year, primarily for sexual exploitation and child labor. Global annual profits made from trafficking are estimated to be $31.6 billion.

For ICCR, its focus on human trafficking in general and child sex trafficking in particular is not new. Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS), an ICCR member, led investor coalitions that engaged with hotel chains in advance of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and last year's Super Bowl in Dallas.

And last week, ICCR collaborated with US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment on a letter to House majority leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor, urging them to support passage of the Business Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act (HR 2759). The bill requires companies with more than $100 million in annual worldwide gross receipts to report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on their efforts to identify and address human trafficking in their supply chains.

The letter states, "This innovative and forward-looking bill reflects the realities of the marketplace, which increasingly requires that companies be sensitive to social and ethical issues, including human rights, in their operations and global supply chains, and create human rights policies, as well as due diligence processes to evaluate, monitor, and strengthen these policies."

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who introduced the bill, said, I thank the socially responsible investment community for their commitment to ending slavery and human trafficking around the globe. My bill, H.R. 2759, the Business Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act, will help raise awareness for consumers who want to know where and how their goods are being made. Human trafficking is the slavery of the 21st century. We must use every tool available to help these men, women, and children around the world who are enslaved. It is my hope that more companies will address human rights abuses in their supply chains.

In advance of this year's Super Bowl, according to Sr. Ann Oestreich, the Coalition for Corporate Responsibility for Indiana and Michigan (CCRIM) engaged with 220 hotels belonging to major chains that are located within a 50-mile radius of Indianapolis, the site of this year's Super Bowl.

At a telenews event held yesterday, Sr. Oestreich said that the coalition has trained 45 of its members to contact the hotels and ask them four questions: did they provide training for their staff around the issue of human trafficking; did they have programs in place for their staff should they observe anything that might suggest that a child in their hotel might be a victim of sexual exploitation or trafficking; were they aware of local agencies and resources that are prepared to respond to incidents of trafficking; and would they be willing to make information about trafficking available to their staff and guests.

"We did follow-up calls to all the hotels and were able to make contact with managers or knowledgeable persons at 200 of the hotels," Sr. Oestreich said. "We found out that 45 hotels had conducted training sessions or were planning to prior to the Super Bowl. Seven hotels requested help in setting up training, and 99 hotels requested information."

"We're extremely pleased that so many hotels wanted material that we could provide to assist them," she added.

Also attending the telenews event was Rev. David Schilling, the director of human rights for ICCR, who said, "This issue of human trafficking and modern-day slavery needs to be addressed at the local, at the national, and at the international level. We have been engaging with companies to adopt policies and practices that get down to the hotel level."

"Increasingly, consumers are concerned about this issue, investors are concerned about this issue, and local communities as well," Schilling continued.

Schilling pointed out that ICCR and Calvert Investments recently published Investor Guidance for companies to comply with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which went into effect on January 1st. The Guidance encourages companies "to go beyond minimum compliance" with the law through "programmatic commitments and public reporting that reflects a holistic human rights framework that seeks to address all forms of trafficking."

Schilling spoke highly of the efforts of local law enforcement officials "to address the issue in very concrete terms in Indianapolis."

At the telenews event, Deputy Attorney General Abigail Kuzma, the director of Consumer Protection for the Indiana Attorney General's office, described some of the efforts by law enforcement officials to end human trafficking. The National Association of Attorneys General has established the Pillars of Hope initiative, which seeks to raise awareness of human trafficking, implement anti-human trafficking laws in all 50 states, and mobilize community support to identify and protect the victims of the practice.

Kuzma also pointed out that Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels had just signed into law a bill which makes recruiting, transporting, or harboring anyone younger than 16 for prostitution a felony punishable by up to 50 years in prison.

Mark Regier of Everence Financial, an Indiana-based provider of financial services and an ICCR member, also spoke at the event.

"As an institutional investor concerned about the impact our investments have in this country and around the world, we believe that human trafficking presents a serious business risk to companies," Regier said. "It also presents a risk to communities like Indianapolis."

Everence was part of the shareowner team, led by Mercy Investment Services, that persuaded Delta to become the first American airline to sign the EC-PAT Code of Conduct on child sex trafficking. In November, Wyndham Worldwide joined the growing number of major hotel chains that have signed The Code. Other US organizations that have signed The Code include Global Exchange's Reality Tours, Hilton Worldwide, and Carlson Companies.

Schilling also reported that ICCR is coordinating with UK-based investors in advance of the upcoming London Olympics to guard against labor and sex trafficking during the games.

 

 
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