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December 11, 2013
At-Risk Industries Urged to Address Human Trafficking in Supply Chains
    by Robert Kropp

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility announces that members will engage with companies in the food-agricultural and hospitality sectors to ensure that human rights in supply chains are being met.

Yesterday was International Human Rights Day, and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) used the occasion to announce engagements with companies in the food-agricultural and hospitality industry sectors, addressing human rights in corporate supply chains.

For the next month, ICCR members will urge the targeted companies—which include ADM, ConAgra, Costco, Darden Restaurants, Kroger, Mondelez Int’l, Target, and Walmart in the food-agricultural sector; the hospitality companies are Choice, Delta, Hyatt, Starwood, US Airways, Wyndham, and Southwest—to implement corporate policies to help prevent human rights abuses in their supply chains.

“Both sectors are deemed at risk for human rights violations, including unethical recruitment practices which prey on vulnerable workers such as charging fees for jobs,” ICCR stated.

The basis for the engagements will be the Statement of Principles and Recommended Practices for Confronting Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery published in November by ICCR.

“One of the key measures ICCR members use to assess corporate performance is how well the dignity of the human person is respected both within a company’s own supply chains and in the communities impacted by their operations,” the document states. “A fundamental measure of good company performance is the adoption and implementation of a comprehensive, transparent and verifiable human rights policy.”

The responsibility of businesses for human rights in supply chains as well as in the communities in which they operate was highlighted by the endorsement in 2011 by the United Nations Human Rights Council of Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Included in the Guiding Principles is the responsibility of corporations “to respect human rights, which means to act with due diligence to avoid infringing on the rights of others and to address adverse impacts that occur; and greater access by victims to effective remedy, both judicial and non-judicial.”

A report published earlier this year by the Internati onal Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) found “numerous areas where further action is needed” by the US government to ensure that corporations adopt the Guiding Principles in their global operations.

In 2012, California enacted the Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which requires retailers and manufacturers whose global revenue exceeds $100 million to publicly disclose their polices and practices relating to human trafficking in their supply chains. ICCR is a member of Know the Chain, launched to promote greater transparency and dialogue relating to human trafficking in corporate supply chains. The initiative seeks to “assist companies in building ethical and fair supply chains free of forced labor and trafficking.”

“International Human Rights Day is not only a time to call on governments to protect the rights of their citizens,” David Schilling of ICCR stated. “Corporations also have the responsibility to respect human rights by putting in place a 'human rights due diligence' process that requires knowing what their impacts are and showing what they are doing to prevent abuses and address any violations that have occurred.”

“Companies are compelled not only to do their due diligence within their own operations but to ensure that their business partners and suppliers are also aware and rooting out these practices,” Schilling continued.

Noting that the Statement of Principles has been endorsed by nearly 500 organizations and individuals, Sr. Kathleen Coll of CHE Trinity Health said, “These first fifteen companies are only the first round in an ongoing initiative that will include many more companies and other sectors at risk for human rights abuses, such as companies in the electronic and retail sectors.”


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