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September 24, 2015

The Business Role In Addressing Modern-Day Slavery

For almost a decade, Humanity United has led and supported efforts to advance human freedom by combatting human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

As one of the most intractable problems facing our world today, it is a difficult problem to understand and even harder to accurately quantify. Yet we know that tens of millions of adults and children are subject to exploitation, fraud and coercion, harsh working conditions and almost unimaginable abuses that strip them of their dignity and basic human rights.

The International Labor Organization estimates that almost 21 million people are victims of forced labor. This is reinforced by recent media investigations that have uncovered evidence of labor abuses in the apparel, agriculture, seafood, and electronic sectors.

As the world has come to better understand the systems and causes that contribute to the exploitation of people, we know that many of these abuses are happening in complex supply chains. While outsourcing production and procurement is common in global trade, the supply chains created are often opaque, making them difficult to trace, audit and control.

Five years ago this month, the California Transparency and Supply Chains Act became law. Nearly 3,000 global companies doing business in the state must now publicly disclose their efforts to eliminate human trafficking from their supply chains. At the time, we knew this law was the first of its kind, but we did not know it would become a model replicated through regulatory controls and legislation in the U.S. and throughout Europe. Next month, the UK’s Modern Slavery Law takes effect, requiring greater supply chain transparency. It is estimated that as many as 12,000 global corporations will need to comply with this law.

At Humanity United, we believe that market forces and businesses can be a powerful force for positive social change. That is why, over the past ten years, we’ve advocated for policy solutions related to supply chain transparency and accountability. We’ve also worked in specific commodities, like palm oil and seafood, and we’ve supported the development of tools and solutions designed to help companies better understand and address the issue of forced labor in their supply chains.

We understand that the adoption of more ethical supply chain practices is an increasingly important issue. For many companies and socially concerned investors, this goes beyond simple legal compliance. We also know that the current suite of tools and practices available for companies to understand and address supply chain issues is inadequate.

That is why we are committed to working with the business community to address the issue of forced labor in supply chains.   This fall, we will be announcing new initiatives designed to help this community better understand the issue and requirements, and act on the growing demand for greater transparency and corporate responsibility.

There is a significant opportunity right now for corporations and investors to tackle this issue and take steps against forced labor in their supply chains. We want to help them take advantage of this opportunity. By doing so, these businesses can meaningfully contribute to the eradication of modern-day slavery.

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