January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month—a time to recognize the efforts of governments, businesses and citizens to raise awareness about the rising tide of human trafficking around the world.
Did you know there are an estimated 24.9 million people trapped in human trafficking, according to the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report? Another study, Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, released by Walk Free, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that nearly 50 million people are living in modern slavery, due in part to recent crises like the coronavirus pandemic, international conflicts and climate change.
Often used interchangeably, the terms “human trafficking,” “trafficking in persons,” and “modern slavery” all refer to crimes where traffickers exploit and profit at the expense of adults or children by forcing them to perform labor or engage in commercial sex. They lure victims and exploit them through physical, financial and/or psychological means.
Regulatory Action to Combat Slavery and Human Trafficking
Several countries are working to prevent human rights abuses by passing and implementing anti-trafficking laws. For example, there are now 178 parties to the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (the UN TIP Protocol), which aims to prevent and combat trafficking, protect and assist victims and promote cooperation between governments.
The United States enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) more than 20 years ago, and more recently launched the U.S. National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, which includes measures to strengthen the prosecution of traffickers, enhances victim protection, and prevents these crimes from occurring within U.S. borders and abroad.
Targeting a specific region of concern, late in 2022, the U.S. Congress passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), which prohibits U.S. imports of any items mined, produced or manufactured wholly or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China, or by persons working with the XUAR government for the purposes of the Chinese “poverty alleviation” or “pairing-assistance” programs. It goes into effect mid-2023.
The United Kingdom’s Modern Slavery Act gives law enforcement tools to fight modern slavery, including an independent anti-slavery commissioner, along with severe punishments for perpetrators and enhanced support and protection for victims. The Canadian government has proposed a Modern Slavery Act, which requires organizations to issue a public report on corporate structure, supply chains and efforts to fight forced labor and child labor. In Europe, the European Commission recently published a proposal for a law that will prohibit products made with forced labor from being sold in, imported to, or exported from, the EU.
Effective January 1, 2023, the German Supply Chain Act includes a range of due diligence obligations aimed at reducing human rights risks in global supply chains. And, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the EU adopted an anti-trafficking plan for Ukraine, which includes emergency 24-hour helplines for potential victims, awareness material at border checkpoints and registration centers, and a dedicated EU website for refugees.
How to Ensure Your Organization Is Compliant
“Organizations need to step up efforts to help end human trafficking and modern slavery, not only in support of basic human rights, but as an urgent matter of compliance. As anti-human trafficking legislation increases around the world, taking steps to build awareness, and implementing effective training programs and reporting should be on every organization’s radar.” Jen Farthing, SVP Learning, SAI360
We know that monitoring compliance can be challenging, and the recent wave of anti-human trafficking legislation makes it even more so, particularly when it comes to ensuring compliance of third parties. Beyond the incalculable reputational risk of finding companies in your supply chain that may be exploiting workers, your organization may incur significant fines and supply chain disruptions.
Here are a few steps your organization can take to protect your brand and ensure compliance with anti-human trafficking regulations:*
- Develop a code of conduct for third-party suppliers that covers modern slavery and includes clear compliance requirements
- Create risk assessment processes to identify human trafficking or suspicions of human trafficking
- Train staff to spot the signs of human trafficking and how to report it
- Ensure grievance and whistleblowing mechanisms are in place
- Communicate clear lines of compliance responsibility
- Provide thorough documentation and reporting if/when this activity is found or suspected
- Regularly review and assess supply chain risks
*Note that in Germany, the Supply Chain Act includes specific due diligence requirements, described here.
Be Part of the Solution
Since 2010, U.S. presidents have declared each January “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month” to raise awareness of the issue. You too can help raise awareness by referencing and sharing these tools: