Human Trafficking Update: 2 Ways to Navigate the New Legal Landscape

Human Trafficking Update: 2 Ways to Navigate the New Legal Landscape

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November 10, 2015

Earlier this year, dozens of articles published by outlets like the New York Times and the Guardian exposed slavery in the fishing industry, with the Associated Press linking slave-caught fish to seafood to supermarkets, restaurants, and even certain brands of cat food sold in the United States. These stories caused an uproar, with companies being sued for using fish farmed with slave labor and politicians vowing to pass legislation to require companies to disclose actions taken to prevent human trafficking and slavery.

The increased focus on human trafficking and slavery shines a new light on an ancient problem. A number of international conventions prohibiting slavery, trafficking, or forced labor have come into force since 1930, the most recent being the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings in 2005. And more than 60 countries have passed legislation specifically targeting human trafficking. Yet, according to the International Labour Organization, more than 20 million people are currently victims of slavery, forced labor, or human trafficking.

Now, a number of regulators are looking to combat human trafficking from a different angle. In 2010, the state of California passed the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which requires retail sellers and manufacturers doing business in California who have more than USD $100 million in gross receipts to disclose their efforts to combat human trafficking and slavery in their supply chains. Similarly, the U.K. Modern Slavery Act, which came into effect this year, requires companies that operate in the U.K. and have more than GBP £36 million (approximately USD $56 million) in annual turnover to disclose a Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement that describes the steps the company has taken to ensure that there is no slavery or human trafficking in the company’s operations or supply chains. In March 2015, the U.S. Federal Acquisition Regulation “Ending Trafficking in Persons” came into force. This regulation requires government contractors to implement anti-human trafficking compliance programs, annually certify their anti-human trafficking efforts, and ensure that they and their subcontractors do not engage in human trafficking.

For many companies, compliance with these regulations may seem daunting. But there are ways for companies to implement effective human trafficking measures without starting from scratch. Below we discuss two of them.

First, leverage an existing compliance framework to meet the challenges of these new regulations. For example, companies can use the platform through which they provide anti-bribery training to both employees and third parties to provide human trafficking training to that same audience (while in-person training is the gold standard, with online training courses, companies can efficiently train large numbers of employees and intermediaries who are dispersed across the globe). Companies can also leverage their existing risk assessment and due diligence processes by including questions focused on human trafficking and slavery.

Second, take advantage of free external resources available to help assess the risk of human trafficking or slavery in the supply chain, for example, the U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report that assesses human trafficking risk by country, the NGO Verité's report that identifies human trafficking risk by industry, and the U.S. Bureau of International Labor Affairs’ list of goods it has reason to believe are produced by forced labor. Armed with this information, companies can tailor their due diligence efforts.

Human trafficking is not a new problem, despite the new focus from countries like the U.S. and the U.K. And although they may seem challenging, the recent legal developments have come at an opportune time, when the private sector has already built a foundation in anti-bribery compliance that can help companies comply with the new regulations. That gives companies a step up in the fight against human trafficking.

For more on this topic, please see the following resources:

U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report 2015
TRACE International Online Training - Avoiding Trafficked Labor
Human Trafficking in Supply Chains
Improving Compliance Training: 3 Ways to Use Games Successfully

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