Investors Support National Legislation Mandating Corporate Disclosures on Trafficking and Slavery Risks

The Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2015 will help prevent incidents of slavery and trafficking in global supply chains.

NEW YORK, NY – Tuesday, July 28, 2015 – The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of 300 investors with assets under management of over $100 billion, Calvert Investments and Christian Brothers Investment Services, commend Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) for today’s introduction of The Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2015 in the House of Representatives.

The bill was introduced following yesterday’s publication of the State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons report, which called on governments to “set clear expectations for businesses on human rights issues and adopt policies that promote greater transparency and better reporting on anti-trafficking efforts in supply chains.”

We also support Senator Richard Blumenthal’s (D-CT) forthcoming companion bill to be introduced in the Senate shortly.

The identical bills would require public disclosures to the Security and Exchange Commission regarding auditing and verification procedures, risk assessments, training, remediation plans and accountability mechanisms that address trafficking and slavery risks. If enacted, the bills would apply to all publicly traded or private entities in every sector and, consequently, would have broad international impact.

“This act is a real game-changer that is much needed by consumers, investors and most importantly, those who have been made victims by human traffickers,” said David M. Schilling, senior program director of ICCR. “This would require corporate reporting on human rights risks within their extended supply chains down to the commodity level”.

“Companies without a clearly formulated, comprehensive and proactive approach, leave themselves open to a variety of risks, including reputational, legal, and regulatory risk,” stated Julie Tanner, assistant director of Catholic responsible investing, Christian Brothers Investment Services. “The disclosures required by these bills will provide investors with the information necessary to adequately evaluate risks to their portfolios and potential impacts to shareholder value.”

The Maloney bill builds on The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which took effect on January 1, 2012 and applies to manufacturers and retailers doing business in the state.

In addition, the recent release on March 2, 2015 by the Federal Acquisition Registry of the rules related to President Obama’s Executive Order raises the bar by requiring all companies with government contracts to certify that they have done their due diligence in confronting and remediating human trafficking and slavery in their extended supply chain.

A similar law in the UK, the Modern Slavery Act of 2015 calls for corporate disclosure on human trafficking mitigation efforts. The law includes a Transparency in Supply Chains clause encouraging business to take action to ensure their end-to-end supply chains are slavery free.

“Human trafficking is a growing problem within global supply chains. If enacted, this law will raise the bar on corporate disclosure and investors will be better positioned to more effectively assess how companies are managing these risks,” said Mike Lombardo, Senior Sustainability Analyst and Manager, Index, Calvert Investments.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights clearly spells out the responsibility of companies to respect human rights, which includes reporting on what a company is doing to assess and address incidents of trafficking throughout its supply chain.

“Beyond a company’s required regulatory and legislative compliance lies a clear moral mandate: safeguarding human rights is everyone’s business,” said David Schilling. “As faith-based and responsible investors we view this mandate as fundamental for companies to retain their social license to operate.”

ICCR applauds the leadership of Congresswoman Maloney and Congressman Smith. The pervasiveness of trafficking and slavery require effective legislation that moves beyond voluntary disclosures and levels the playing field for all companies. We strongly urge members of Congress to co-sponsor this bill.

About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)

Currently celebrating its 44th year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of active shareholders who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for change. Its 300 member organizations with over $100 billion in AUM have an enduring record of corporate engagement that has demonstrated influence on policies promoting justice and sustainability in the world.

Despite Criticism From Congress, Malaysia, Cuba Taken Off US Human Trafficking Blacklist

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic lawmakers and rights groups on Monday accused the State Department of politicizing its annual rankings of nations on their efforts to combat modern-day slavery, as key trading partner Malaysia was taken off a blacklist.

Cuba was also given an upgrade, a week after the U.S. and Cuba formally restored diplomatic relations, ending a half-century of estrangement.

But Thailand, downgraded with Malaysia last year because of pervasive labor abuses in its lucrative fishing industry, remained stuck on “tier 3” — the lowest ranking in the department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report.

Undersecretary of State Sarah Sewall denied political considerations had come into play.

Secretary of State John Kerry formally launched the annual U.S. assessment of how 188 governments around the world have performed in fighting the flesh trade and other forms of exploitative labor, which he described as a “battle against money.”

He said the report was not intended to “name and shame” but to galvanize action against an illicit trade that the U.N. estimates generates $150 billion in profits each year, in industries also including mining, construction and domestic service.

Critics contend that Malaysia’s upgrade is related to its participation in a U.S.-backed trade agreement among Pacific Rim countries. Thailand is not part of the proposed agreement.

Read the full story by MATTHEW PENNINGTON of the Associated Press at US News & World Report: Click Here

World Day Against Trafficking In Persons Prayer Resources

The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) Anti-Trafficking Committee have graciously shared the following reflection in connection with the 2nd World Day Against Trafficking In Persons (July 30). This day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2013.

“Every country must join together to overcome this transnational threat by supporting and protecting victims while pursuing and prosecuting the criminals. On the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, let us resolve to act as one in the name of justice and dignity for all.”

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

To access the prayer service in English: Click Here

To access the prayer service in French: Click Here

Hollywood Actress Hits Minnesota To Talk Human Trafficking

WCCO MINNEAPOLIS — A Hollywood actress was in Minnesota this weekend trying to bring attention to a disturbing problem.

Actress Julia Ormond met with Gov. Mark Dayton and top corporate leaders to raise awareness about the use of international slave labor. Ormond is the founder of ASSET, an organization dedicated to ending enslavement and trafficking in supply chains like mining and agriculture.

“You have companies like General Mills acknowledge the problem, that’s the first step. What we need as a community is the opposite of boycott. We need people to stand by companies brave enough to talk about it,” Ormond said.

Ormond spent about two hours with the Gov. Dayton on Friday. She said she hopes Minnesota will follow the California law passed in 2010, requiring companies to disclose where the raw materials come from for their products.

Gov. Dayton said tougher transparency laws are something he’d consider.

Original story from Valley News Live

Victim Advocates and Law Enforcement Use Super Bowl to Shine Light on Human Trafficking

SAN JOSE >> Wherever it lands — and that’s here next year — the nation’s biggest sporting event brings with it a flurry of online come-ons:

“Super Bowl Sunday a night you won’t forget.” “Hut hut it’s getting close to super bowl so lets huddle up for a good stress reliever.” “It’s 4th and goal score with a young hottie eager to please.”

When the Super Bowl arrives at Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium come February, in addition to an explosion of tourists, money and attention, it will bring an unsavory sidekick in the form of what activists call “the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”

That long-held claim is cause for debate: How much the Super Bowl boosts the illicit sex trade, and the extent to which the prostitutes cashing in on it are unwilling or coerced participants, has not been quantified by law enforcement officials nor victim advocates.

“It’s a black-market industry,” said Benjamin Breit of the Cook County Sheriff’s Department in Illinois, which leads a yearly national sting culminating on what the department calls the “National Day of the John,” also known as Super Bowl Sunday. “To what extent it happens, we don’t know. People don’t agree on the numbers and probably never will.”

While not all prostitutes are victims of sex trafficking, many of them are. The law automatically treats under-aged prostitutes as trafficking victims, but for adults the legal definition requires the use of force, fraud or coercion. It does not, however, require someone to be brought in from a foreign country or even from out of town — a popular misconception.

Many of those entrenched in the battle against trafficking say the Super Bowl provides a valuable opportunity to spotlight the oft-neglected and underreported problem of human trafficking, whose victims include exploited laborers in addition to sex workers.

“If we could get people to pay attention to human trafficking every day, then we wouldn’t need the attention around the Super Bowl,” said Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, director of the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research at Arizona State University, which recently competed an in-depth study on the event’s effect on sex trafficking, including looking at bad football/sex innuendoes. “But they don’t, so we need to grab at this opportunity.”

Locally, law enforcement officials and activists are doing just that. Partnerships are being created among law enforcement agencies, nonprofit groups and local governments including Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, with the FBI taking a lead role. About 5,000 law enforcement officials and activists gathered at Levi’s Stadium in May for an event focusing on human trafficking in the Bay Area.

Read the full story by Eric Kurhi and Tracey Kaplan of the Santa Cruz Sentinel: Click Here

WashU Sets Sights on Preventing Human Trafficking

In May 2013, two teenage prostitutes managed to climb out of the bedroom window of a home in Florissant to escape a pimp who’d been holding them captive.

Police later rescued a third teen from the house.

In March 2014, a different pimp from Hazelwood pleaded guilty to forcing numerous women into prostitution — transporting them from Missouri to multiple states and back.

Earlier this month, a Texas couple was charged with working a prostitute out of numerous locations throughout the Midwest including at a hotel in downtown St. Louis.

Those incidents, along with numerous others over the past several years, seem to point to the St. Louis area as especially ripe for human trafficking — sex trafficking in particular.

But no one really knows exactly how widespread the problem is. Federal prosecutors refer to it as a hidden crime.

“Data is always going to be a problem,” U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said. “It’s not like the crime of burglary, where we generally don’t have a problem with homeowners reporting it.”

Read the full story by Koran Addo of the St. Louis Post Dispatch: Click Here

How Workers are Trafficked into the U.S. — the Ugly Truth

(CNN)For those who read the New York Times exposé on labor trafficking in the city’s nail salons, a manicure will never be the same. The article took a hard look at a service industry that many New Yorkers enjoy, and we hope, as a result, the lives of these exploited workers may change for the better.

Unfortunately, we know firsthand that many of the goods and services we enjoy every day are tainted by what is often referred to as “modern slavery.” Through our own experience and work with survivors, we hear what it is like to be a human link in a cruel and profiteering business supply chain that allows us to have a clean hotel room, a trendy pair of jeans, a night out at a favorite restaurant or delicious piece of fruit.

Mark, a Safe Horizon client, was a successful salesman in the Philippines, with a master’s degree in Business Administration. Due to the political climate in his country he made the tough decision to leave. Using his minimal savings and additional high-interest loans, he paid hefty recruitment fees to legally enter the United States where he was placed in a hotel job.

Mark was forced to stay in a tiny makeshift room with no ventilation, AC or heater and eight other people. He worked long hours yet was never paid overtime, checks were months late, wages were withheld with no reason as to why. When he complained, he was threatened that if he spoke up he would be deported.

Read the full story by Griselda Vega and Shandra Woworuntu on CNN: Click Here

Pope Laments ‘Meaningless Lives’ in Tying Human Trafficking To Climate Change

Pope FrancisPope Francis said he had “great hopes” that a fundamental agreement to tackle climate change would be reached in Paris later this year and he believed the United Nations needed to play a central role in the fight against global warming.

“The UN really needs to take a very strong position on this issue, particularly the trafficking of human beings … [a problem] that has been created by climate change,” the pope said.

The remarks followed a day-long meeting of mayors from around the world that was hosted by the Vatican to discuss environmental challenges and how disruptions in climate were contributing to a humanitarian crisis in migration and modern slavery. Speakers included Bill de Blasio of New York, George Ferguson of Bristol and Gustavo Petro of Bogotá, among dozens of others.

The conference began by hearing harrowing testimony from two Mexican women who were victims of modern-day slavery.

“It’s not possible that it still exists, that we remain blind” to the issue of modern slavery, said Ana Laura Pérez Jaimes, who spent five years chained up and forced to work 20 hours a day in Mexico. She showed the mayors photographs of some of the 600 scars she suffered as an indentured servant, forced to iron for hours a day without food or water. She said she had to urinate in a plastic bag.

Read the full story by Stephanie Kirchgaessner of The Guardian: Click Here

The ‘Splainer: Linking Human Trafficking, Climate Change and God

The ‘Splainer (as in, “You’ve got some ‘splaining to do”) is an occasional feature in which RNS gives you everything you need to know about current events to help you hold your own at a cocktail party.
(RNS) This week (July 21 and 22) the Vatican hosts two conferences on human trafficking and climate change, bringing the mayors of major cities — including several in the U.S. — to Rome for the events. What do human trafficking and climate change have to do with each other? And what does Catholicism have to do with them? Let us ‘Splain . . . .

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