On October the 17th 2013 Finance against Trafficking (FAT): http://www.financeagainsttrafficking.org will be holding its 3rd annual conference on business and human trafficking. Jay and I have been involved in the work of FAT for the past two years, as using our skills to help NGO’s is a key part of the philosophy of our team at CLT envirolaw. FAT have been working on a tool, ChainChecker, which will enable businesses to determine how at risk they are to supporting human trafficking in their organization or in their supply chain.
Seeing change across the globe to combat the crime of human trafficking is a vision shared by all those serving various anti- trafficking organisations and one shared strongly by CLT envirolaw. The conference will see the launch of ChainChecker.
So what is human trafficking and why should business be concerned about it?
Victims of human trafficking are victims of human rights abuse. Human trafficking is defined in the Palmora Protocal. It is the recruitment, transport, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force of other forms of coercion, or abduction , of fraud or deception for the purposes of for exploitation. The crime is growing so rapidly on a global scale that it has now overtaken the illegal arms trade. One person is trafficked every 30 seconds. They are trafficked for sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude and organ harvesting.
There is a growing movement amongst societies that require businesses to be transparent in terms of its actions and ethical practices. It is no longer expected that businesses can turn a profit and simply walk away. Everyone must be held accountable.
The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were endorsed by a majority vote in the UN Counsel in 2011. These principles represent concrete and practical recommendations for a corporation to be more accountable for human rights violations. They are seen as a game changer Although these recommendations are voluntary, they represent best practice. Key aspects of these principles are that they apply to ALL business, in all jurisdictions. These principles will be discussed in relation to trafficking at the conference.
The Guiding Principles are also being incorporated into mandatory reporting frameworks such as the proposed EU Directive on Mandatory reporting for Companies: http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/accounting/non-financial_reporting/index_en.htm
Listed companies in the UK , should also be paying attention to the UN Guiding principles and the risk of trafficking as they are going to have to start reporting on human rights issues from October 2013: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/206241/bis-13-889-companies-act-2006-draft-strategic-and-directors-report-regulations-2013.pdf
At the moment there is no specific requirement for business to report on whethertheir operations are at risk of human trafficking, but it is possible that law will be passed in the future which requires retailers and manufacturers doing business in California to disclose their efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their direct supply chains for goods offered for sale: http://corporatelaw.jdsupra.com/post/california-transparency-in-supply-chains-takes-effect. This is just the first step towards true accountability.
The growth in voluntary and legal requirements for business to understand how their operations or partnerships affect human righs, and human trafficking as such, is not a trend. But we need business to engage and act on these issues.
So, if you need to know more about the pressing issue at hand, get involved, attend the conference October 17th and see what difference you can make and consider how your business might tackle these issues.