January 22, 2019


Business is taking steps to combat human trafficking in different ways

  • Involve C-suite leadership in identifying risky business partners and locations
  • Measure and monitor the problem and solutions
  • Work with suppliers and their employees to ensure compliance

Companies with global operations and business partners develop detailed and effective programs to address human trafficking. Specifically, companies are concerned about labor trafficking, where individuals perform work through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Businesses, like Walmart and UPS, have proved to be an invaluable resource for combating this problem.

Here are five ways that companies detect and eliminate human trafficking in their operations, in the operations of their business partners, and in their supply chains:

1. Involve C-suite leadership in identifying risky business partners and locations

When it comes to fighting trafficking, effective leadership comes from the top. Many companies issue public policy statements committing their leadership to respecting human rights. An increasing number of companies have board committees dedicated to corporate social responsibility, including addressing human trafficking in their supply chains. In addition, companies use in-house or third-party analysts to identify the areas where their business partners and operations may pose trafficking risks.

2. Measure and monitor the problem and solutions

Effective companies develop policies explicitly prohibiting human trafficking, including incorporating a zero tolerance policy for human trafficking in supplier selection procedures. These policies apply to both company operations and their supply chains, including business partners like private employment agencies. These policies are integrated into contracts with suppliers and business partners.

Incorporating training programs to educate representatives on human trafficking has proved to be effective. Some firms conduct joint training and awareness-raising exercises and media campaigns with appropriate business partners and external stakeholders. Certain nonprofits and government agencies provide resources to assist with training. For instance, the Department of Homeland Security, as part of its Blue Campaign, offers a toolkit to educate employees in the hospitality industry.

Using in-house or third-party consultants to develop goals and key performance indicators and monitor adherence is essential. Some companies require auditors to provide country-level reports on the political and socioeconomic situations of the countries in which they operate and how those situations affect workers in those nations. These efforts go a long way in keeping the task top of mind.

3. Work with suppliers and their employees to ensure compliance

Companies often require business partners to periodically certify that they comply with the companies’ requirements on eradicating human trafficking from their operations. These certification requirements are integrated into the companies’ contracts.

Some companies require business partners to provide access to a confidential helpline directly connecting the suppliers’ employees with the firms. These helplines enable workers to express their complaints without fear of retaliation.

4. Examine production planning and recruitment practices

Companies that rely on business partners to manufacture and fulfill orders recognize that certain business conditions may create additional risks. Businesses seek to manage their demands to ensure that products are produced by known and trusted partners.

Recruiters function as a bridge between workers and employers and help match workers with positions. However, certain recruiters charge recruited employees fees that they cannot reasonably be expected to repay. This leads to debt bondage in which workers are forced to give up most or all of their salary until these fees are repaid. To combat this situation, companies institute policies barring recruiters from charging prohibitive or inappropriate recruitment fees or any related costs.

5. Take action in the community

Companies increasingly launch global, national, or local campaigns in cooperation with the media to promote their activities to eradicate human trafficking. They also work with international organizations, nonprofits, and trade associations to establish industrywide task forces on human trafficking dedicated to raising awareness.