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May 08, 2012
Investors Call for Steps to Eliminate Sex Trafficking at London Olympics
    by Robert Kropp

ICCR members and other investors write to airlines, hotel chains, and corporate sponsors of the Games, and launch website to encourage public involvement in ending human sex trafficking.

Remaining oblivious to the scourge of human sex trafficking is not particularly difficult for those who choose to do so. It's easy, when checking into a busy hotel on the day before a major sporting event. How can you be at all responsible for the woman or child in bondage, when you sail through the lobby and see nothing overtly disturbing?

But the major hotel chains that host the vast majority of visitors to cities where major events such as this summer's Olympic Games in London take place also host the traffickers, with their victims in tow. The airlines that fly us to London or wherever a major event is taking place transport those same traffickers and victims as well. It's been a years-long struggle for organizations like ECPAT to convince hotel chains and airlines to acknowledge and act upon their responsibility to address human sex trafficking; after more than 20 years, only a handful of US-based companies in the travel and tourism industry sector have signed onto ECPAT's Code of Conduct.

Members of the
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) have been addressing the issue for years as well, using their influence as investors and shareowners to engage with travel and tourism companies. In Indianapolis at this year's Super Bowl, the Coalition for Corporate Responsibility for Indiana and Michigan (CCRIM) engaged with 220 hotels belonging to major chains, and reported that a considerable majority responded by establishing training programs for employees or by requesting more information on the issue.

Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) has done as much as any institutional investor in addressing human sex trafficking. In 2010, CBIS led an investor coalition seeking to combat sex trafficking at the World Cup in South Africa; it did the same at last year's Super Bowl in Dallas.

CBIS was also involved in the successful passage of the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, leading a coalition of investors that encouraged Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign the bill into law. As a result, companies with revenues of more than $100 million doing business in the state are required to publish on their websites their policies addressing slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains.

To return to this summer's Olympic Games, last month a coalition of investors representing $58 billion in assets under management sent letters to 32 companies, "calling for immediate and transparent actions to train staff and suppliers to recognize and avoid the trafficking of workers into slavery, to monitor their supply chains, and to examine hiring and recruitment practices."

The coalition, which includes ICCR,
US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, and the UK-based Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR), sent letters not only to hotel chains and airlines, but to corporate sponsors of the Games as well. Members of the coalition also wrote to the International Olympics Committee (IOC), urging it "to require that all Olympic corporate sponsors, suppliers, contractors and host cities take concrete steps to eliminate commercial sexual exploitation of children and labor trafficking."

According to Lee Coates of ECCR, "The vast majority of companies that received the letter will be taking action." Companies that fail to respond to the letter will be publicly named when an analysis of the responses is published.

Travelers to London this summer can visit
Celebration Without Exploitation, a website developed by CBIS and its partners. There, travelers can learn if their airline or hotel chain has signed The Code, and download letters to present to hotel management.

Those that are traveling elsewhere this summer can download a general-purpose letter addressing the issue.


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