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Uncovering Human Trafficking in Supply Chains with LexisNexis Due Diligence Dashboard

March 5, 2012
Trafficking In Persons Report Map 2010

Image via Wikipedia

 
Respectfully reprinted from: Lexis Nexis Government Info

A special thanks to Samir Goswami, Director of Corporate Responsibility, Rule of Law at LexisNexis, for today’s Government Info Pro post.

Read on…

When I used to visit my father at the Indian Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, the office compound was often flooded with desperate looking men in tattered clothing. They were sprawled out on the Embassy lawn, sleeping on the couches in the public areas, and showering in the bathrooms next to the receptionist’s desk. My father was a Diplomat and he told me that these were workers who were brought to Libya with promises of good jobs in the oil fields. However, once they got there they were often forced to work for long hours with minimal pay in brutal conditions. Those camped out at the Embassy were able to get away and were awaiting repatriation to their villages in India.

The oil they were forced to extract and process was headed to consumers in Western markets.

This was in 1985 and I was ten years old. Although at the time there were international labor conventions that recognized this form of deception and harm, it was not until fifteen years later in 2000 that the U.S. Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The international community didn’t enact the landmark “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons” until 2003. Both of these measures define such elements of exploited labor as human trafficking and created comprehensive legislative frameworks to address the issue.

GROWING INTERNATIONAL AWARENESS AND LAWS:

The International Labor Organization estimates that out of 12.3 million forced labor victims worldwide, around 2.4 million are trafficked and that as many as 1.2 million are children. Much of this labor goes to produce goods that we commonly consume.  U.S. Department of Labor research indicates that forced and child labor is found in a variety of sectors including agriculture, textiles, manufacturing, food processing, fisheries and commodities such as cotton, rubber and in the extraction and processing of rare earth minerals that are found in modern day electronics. 

Thus, U.S. and foreign governments have created a regulatory framework to ensure that we recognize and assist victims, punish traffickers and don’t inadvertently support human trafficking by utilizing forced and child labor in the production of goods we consume. A few examples include:

  1. U.S. FAR Subpar 22.15: prohibition on federal procurement officials purchasing goods made with child labor.
  2. International Labor Organization Conventions 29, 105, 138 & 182: Provisions ratified by up to 175 countries towards the elimination of forced and child labor.
  3. U.S. FRAGO 06-188: Pentagon issued directive ensuring that the U.S. Department of Defense to eradicate human trafficking in labor recruiting practices.
  4. European Union Council Decision 2006/618/EC: Requires each EU member state to adopt measures to prevent and combat trafficking in persons.
  5. SAARC Convention on Regional Arrangements for the Promotion of Child Welfare in South Asia: Calls on all seven members of countries in South Asia to “eliminate the evil of child labor from the SAARC region”.

CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE:

In the U.S. this year, California enacted a “Supply Chain Transparency Act” that mandates corporations of a certain size doing business in the state to publicly disclose what steps they are taking to ensure that their supply chains are free of trafficked and slave labor. Supporters of the measure estimate that over 3,200 multinational corporations are impacted by this law and subsequently many law firms are now establishing practices to advise these multi-national corporations to become compliant. A federal version of this act was introduced in Congress last year to expand nationally the provisions enacted by California.

LEXISNEXIS DUE DILIGENCE DASHBOARD:

These laws were passed and multi-lateral agreements signed because of the global public’s heightened awareness about human trafficking, often referred to as a form of modern day slavery, and our desire to not buy such tainted goods. What limits our diligence, however, is a lack of credible information that procurement officials can access to ensure that their supply chains are free of goods produced through such exploitation.  Increasingly, corporate and government procurement officials are in need of information from trusted sources to help them uncover and manage potential risks and comply with legislative frameworks and international conventions. However, supply chains are complicated, and often times it is difficult to expose the last tier in a process that may span the globe.

Due Diligence Dashboard, a LexisNexis product can assist. DDD synthesizes data from more than 20 global databases including public records and news and company filing information to uncover risks in supply chains. For example, a DDD search of Foxconn, the contractor utilized by Apple to produce its products in China uncovered 1,500 negative news articles dating back to 1997. As the Apple example indicates, there are many benefits to accessing this type of information: DDD allows for a company to make better decisions about its contractors by uncovering crucial information to avoid devastating and costly risks to the company’s brand.

CREATING A “FREEDOM DIVIDEND”

Most importantly, preemptive access to such information can allow a company to work with a potential supplier to improve working conditions in their factories and incentivize the manufacturing plants of their sub-contractors to make positive changes. Inspiring such action through access to information can provide a monetary incentive for a dubious sub-contractor to improve wages and enhance working conditions and safety. By doing so, entire communities can be uplifted through the better treatment of workers.

Over the long term, such improvements can unlock human potential and create business enabling environments that foster further and legitimate economic growth. Kevin Bales, renowned author and founder of Free the Slaves, describes such action as opportunities to create a “freedom dividend”. “You get people out of slavery and they begin to work for themselves, they generate incomes, they buy things, they build schools, it changes the whole community in which they live.”

As LexisNexis actively seeks to expand the depth and viability of our due diligence products, we embed good governance and social responsibility into our business development strategy. This has a positive impact on our own growth and a tremendous impact on society, allowing us to satisfy our business objective of returning value to our shareholders and customers, and fulfilling our underlying purpose to advance the rule of law.

*More about Samir Goswami:

Samir has spent the last 15 years building various collaborations and coalitions around social justice issues. He is the recipient of numerous awards including, “40 Who Have Made a Difference” by Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, the “2010 Impact Award” by Chicago Foundation for Women, and he was awarded a 2010 Chicago Community Trust Fellowship in recognition of his work on human trafficking issues.

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