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Can Businesses Help to Combat Human Trafficking?

by Richard Welford  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | 26 April 2017

s 867655912578Given the complex nature of any supply chain used throughout a production process, there can be a number of risks to companies associated with human trafficking. Awareness of these risks and knowledge of the ways that traffickers may use a company’s workplaces or supply chain in connection with their trafficking activities can help companies avoid reputational damage, business interruptions, potential lawsuits, community conflicts, protests and a loss of consumer trust, all of which can impact on financial performance. Monitoring can help companies to ensure that measures are in place throughout the company’s entire supply chain. But creating a broad consensus against human trafficking amongst all stakeholders will also be important.


Here are 10 facts from the Thomson Reuters Foundation (the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters) about human trafficking around the world:

  1. Trafficking is considered the exploitation of men, women and children forced to work against their will through the use of violence, deception or coercion.
  2. People can be trafficked for many different forms of exploitation such as prostitution, forced labour, begging, criminality, domestic servitude, forced marriage and forced organ removal.
  3. Globally, nearly 21 million people are victims of forced labour and trafficking, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
  4. Human trafficking is the world's fastest growing criminal enterprise, making an estimated US$150 billion annually in illegal profits, according to the ILO.
  5. Of the victims, one quarter are children, and more than half are women and girls.
  6. The largest number of forced labourers are in the Asia-Pacific region.
  7. The face of trafficking is changing, with more children and men falling prey and more victims trapped in forced labour than a decade ago, the United Nations reported last year.
  8. In the United States, nearly 32,000 cases of human trafficking have been reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in the last decade.
  9. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime found trafficking in 106 countries and territories, with trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced labour and begging most common.
  10. The Sustainable Development Goals call by 2030 for the eradication of forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking, an end to child labour and elimination of all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.


In order to help to combat human trafficking there 10 practical measures that companies should undertake to play their part in dealing with the scourge of trafficking:

  1. Undertake human rights risks assessments that include identifying risks associated with human trafficking wherever business is carried out.
  2. Create and implement strong and substantive human rights policies for the company and its suppliers, raise awareness about the risks and consequent costs of using trafficked labour.
  3. Train staff, suppliers, vendors, contractors and auditors to better understand company policies, how to effectively implement them and ways to avoid the risks associated with inaction.
  4. Analyze corporate activities, linkages and relationships with suppliers and how these affect people and their rights in order to prevent human rights abuses.
  5. Determine high-risk industry sectors and countries in order to mitigate instances of human trafficking in the supply chain.
  6. Review, develop, and implement auditing mechanisms to ensure compliance with corporate human rights policies. But be aware that audits will not necessarily uncover all cases of trafficking (particularly when they exist deep in the supply chain).
  7. Collaborate with stakeholders (including local government authorities, NGOs and local communities to identify risks associated with trafficking and to help victims.
  8. Develop mechanisms along the supply chain so that people who have been trafficked or people who are aware of instances of trafficking can report concerns to you without fear of retaliation.
  9. Be part of broad industry-led multi-stakeholder initiatives that include proactive attempts to tackle trafficking and other human rights abuses along supply chains.
  10. Produce honest and open reports on anti-trafficking programs and practices, including measurements of progress and success.


This year’s CSR Asia Summit will have a particular focus on human trafficking as part of a stream of workshops and panel discussions about supply chains and human rights. You can get more information here.