In an interconnected world, human trafficking is a global problem that touches many industries and business relationships. On January 15, 2020, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce held the Integrating Services for Trafficking Survivors event to highlight how employers, in conjunction with social service providers, counseling firms, housing agencies, and skills-based training organizations, provide resources for human trafficking victims to heal.
Nikki Clifton, vice president of global public affairs at UPS, moderated a discussion examining the role of the business community to recognize human trafficking victims. As part of the discussion, Dottie Laster, founder of Trafficking Victim Rescue Central; Kendis Paris, co-founder and executive director of Truckers Against Trafficking; and Mar Brettmann, CEO and executive director of Businesses Ending Slavery & Trafficking (BEST), underscored that human trafficking affects everyone and that the cost of this reprehensible act destroys the livelihoods of its victims. They stressed the need for the public and private sectors to work with the business community to raise awareness.
Robert Beiser, strategic initiatives director of sex trafficking at Polaris, spoke about the report On-Ramps, Intersections, and Exit Routes: A Roadmap for Systems and Industries to Prevent and Disrupt Human Trafficking. The transportation and hospitality industries have used the report’s findings to develop training modules.
Technology is both a conduit for traffickers reaching out to vulnerable individuals, as well as a method to detect how perpetrators operate. Participants discussed the use of technology to reach trafficking victims.
Courtney Gregoire, chief digital safety officer and associate general counsel at Microsoft; Lisa Cox, program director at Verité; and Martin Laird, good tech global program leader at IBM, highlighted the tools that their companies have developed to combat trafficking:
- Microsoft’s Project Artemis scans online text chats and its platforms, such as XBox for online child sexual exploitation.
- IBM’s Traffik Analysis Hub is a partnership across sectors, including financial institutions, non-governmental organizations, law enforcement, and government agencies, that analyzes and processes data in real time for labor and commercial sex trafficking incidences.
- Verité’s software platforms, the Responsible Sourcing Tool and CUMULUS, enable companies to do a deep dive and examine forced labor in supply chains.
Anesa “Nes” Parker, senior manager of Deloitte Consulting LLP, interviewed Jessica Hubley, co-founder and CEO of AnnieCannons, Inc., on ways to upskill trafficked individuals. Hubley emphasized that survivors are resilient and able to quickly adapt to changing environments. She explained how AnnieCannons acts as a social enterprise that transforms lives by teaching survivors coding skills.
Ambassador Susan Esserman, founder and director at the University of Maryland’s SAFE Center for Human Trafficking Survivors, described how businesses are leading efforts to achieve sustainability for victims. She stressed that businesses cannot do this work alone—they need to partner with comprehensive service providers and researchers to help survivors get back on their feet.
Kevin Ryan, president and CEO of Covenant House International, discussed his organization’s mission to end youth trafficking. Covenant House International provides shelter for vulnerable youth and partners with Rogers Communication in Toronto, Canada, and Delta Air Lines in the U.S., to provide job training opportunities.
Mimi Braniff, managing director of government affairs at Delta Air Lines, moderated a discussion with social service providers and legal experts. Panelists pointed out that individuals who have criminal records confront housing and employment barriers, among other hurdles.
Kate Mogulescu, lead attorney, Survivor Reentry Project, Freedom Network USA, and Yasmin Vafa, co-founder and executive director, Rights4Girls, made a business case for state vacatur laws, arguing that reforms are needed to rehabilitate, rather than punish individuals who are illegally lured into forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.
Social service providers also play a pivotal role in providing income-related support and safe housing. Tiffany McGee, founder and executive director of Survivor Ventures, described her business model that subsidizes wages for survivors to work at small businesses in the Greater Hampton (VA) area.
Elizabeth Melendez Fisher Good, co-founder and CEO of Selah Freedom and the Selah Way Foundation, spoke about her organization’s objective to provide court diversion programs for sex trafficking victims. Fisher Good is also the author of Groomed, a book about “overcoming the messages that shaped our past and limit our future.”
Glenn Spencer, senior vice president of the Employment Policy Division at the U.S. Chamber, articulated that partnerships between the judicial system and businesses are key to empowerment. Vanessa Perkins, bailiff, Changing Actions to Change Habits (CATCH) Court, in Franklin County (Columbus, OH) told her personal story. Trafficked at an early age, Perkins was sent to CATCH Court, where she was ordered to seek counseling.
Judge Jodi Thomas of the Franklin County Municipal Court spoke about CATCH Court’s partnership with Freedom a la Cart, a catering business, as well as the Eleventh Candle Co. Both of these social enterprises employ human trafficking victims. Amber Runyon, founder and CEO at the Eleventh Candle Co., discussed how the company’s social enterprise model focuses on survivor empowerment.
Paula Haines, executive director of Freedom a la Cart, mentioned that as part of the court diversion process she worked closely with Perkins to develop soft skills, such as showing up on time for work and how to work with others collaboratively. Haines helped Perkins with her resume when she applied for positions with the prosecutor’s office and then as bailiff at CATCH Court. As bailiff, Perkins also acts as a mentee to trafficking victims.