A movement by the Slave Free Campaign has spurred anti-human trafficking action in the Hong Kong business world. In an effort to work in tandem with businesses, not against them, the Slave Free Campaign according to founder Julie Lim, “…aims to integrate human rights into business practices in order to eliminate labor trafficking in global supply chains.” The assumption by Lim is that most retail brands don’t understand what is happening in their factories operating in remote areas by middlemen. In auxiliary to the Slave Free Campaigns movement, Judge Zervos of the High Court of Hong Kong, recently made judgement highlighting the government’s failure to implement a comprehensive system of legislation and training covering slavery in all its forms. Both the Slave Free Campaign and High Court’s actions are ancillary to the increasing criticism from outside Hong Kong for a lack of action against human trafficking. The U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report downgraded Hong Kong from Tier 2 to Tier 2 Watch List last year, and the United Nations CESCR Humans Rights Committee has persistently reported the high level of trafficking in Hong Kong, China. All of these efforts have justified a need for change in Hong Kong’s policy against human-trafficking.
In February, a Consumer class action lawsuit was filed by consumer Danell Tomasell in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts against Nestlé USA and in March, a second consumer class action lawsuit against Mars Inc. and Mars Chocolate North America LLC. The woman alleges the chocolatiers deceived consumers by failing to adequately inform consumers that child labor was involved in the cocoa beans used in the defendants’ products. According to the complaints, the defendant’s chocolate products are made from cocoa beans from West Africa. Both suits argue that had consumers known the products may contain cocoa procured from child or slave labor, they would not have purchased the products. The consumer class action lawsuits seeks judgment against the defendants, awarding plaintiff and the class all appropriate damages including trebling, attorneys’ fees, costs, interest, and further relief to be determined. Similar failed Consumer class action cases against Nestlé USA , Hershey and Mars Inc. were thrown out of court in 2016.
International law has been a powerful medium for defining, preventing, protecting, prosecuting, and partnering against human trafficking world-wide. A set of eight international protocols and/or conventions are fundamental for countries to develop a national plan and display progress in anti-trafficking efforts. Meeting the minimum standard is demonstrated through legislation, prosecutions, and protection of victims as deemed necessary by the following relevant international conventions:
The annual Stop Slavery Award was awarded to four winners at the 2017 Trust Conference. The award was led by Adidas with additional recognition as an “Outstanding Achiever” for excelling in every judging category. The international fashion retailer C&A was awarded for going beyond compliance standards in all categories. Through the “Bright Future” program, The Co-operative Group offers employment opportunities for victims of modern day slavery and was honored for having excelled in business partnership engagement and for having demonstrated excellence in supplier engagement and capacity building. The major U.S. technology company, Intel Corporation, was awarded for its outstanding work in demonstrating and implementing innovation across its programs against child sexual exploitation and refusing new business to suppliers who have failed to implement measures to combat slavery.
The Stop Slavery Award was launched by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The initiative recognizes companies that have taken concrete steps to eradicate forced labor from their supply chains. Short-listed nominee candidate companies included: Aldi UK, Barclays Bank Plc, CH2M, Fortescue Metals Group, Marks & Spencer, Marshall Plc, MGM China Holdings Ltd, Nestle’ S.A., Shiva Hotels, Waitrose, and Walmart Stores, Inc.
Every successful supply chain program has a designated third-party assessor providing due diligence to both the supplier and the buyer. In the case of the Fair Food Program (FFP), the Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC) is charged with monitoring participating growers’ operations for compliance with the Fair Food Code of Conduct. Unlike other social responsibility programs however, FFSC operates in the unique structure created by the Coalition of Immokalee Worker Fair Food Program agreements, with their emphasis on worker participation and effective market consequences for non-compliance.
In a face-to-face interview, CHTCS discussed the cause and effect of FFSC’s role in the supply chain with the Executive Director Judge Laura Safer-Espinoza (retired), Director of Development Lindsay Adams and Associate Director Matthew Wooten.
Sean Sellers is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Worker-driven Social Responsibility (WSR) Network. Prior to joining WSR Network staff, Sean spent nearly fifteen years supporting the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) efforts to improve labor conditions in U.S. agriculture. From 2003 to 2010, Sean worked in several capacities on the Campaign for Fair Food. In 2011, his work pivoted to the implementation of the Fair Food Program (FFP) across the Florida tomato industry and beyond. Sean was a founding staff member of the Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC), the program’s third-party monitor, where he worked as a senior investigator until 2016. Sean has a BS and MA from the University of Texas at Austin.
Theresa Haas is the Director of Outreach and Education at the Worker-driven Social Responsibility (WSR) Network. Prior to joining WSR Network staff, Theresa served as the Director of Communications for the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), an independent labor rights monitoring organization, which works to protect and defend the rights of workers who make clothing and other consumer goods. While at the WRC, she helped to develop and launch the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a legally-binding agreement between workers and apparel brands to make factories safe. She is a graduate of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University.
Thomson Reuters recently announced the winners and honorable mentions of its annual ‘Stop Slavery Award’, comprised of companies and groups that are actively fighting against all forms of modern slavery, and are the leading examples of Corporate Social Responsibility in regards to modern slavery and human trafficking specifically. The initiative recognizes companies that have taken concrete steps to eradicate forced and other forms of modern slavery from their supply chains.
The primary prize winner was Adidas, with additional recognition as an “Outstanding Achiever” for excelling in every judging category, however Thomson Reuters’ also went on to recognize the other winners and short-listed nominee companies including Barclays Bank, The Co-Operative Group, C&A, Intel, Walmart Stores, Inc. and many others for their efforts to combat modern slavery. We at CHTCS want to congratulate all the companies recognized for leading the corporate fight against human trafficking and modern slavery.
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation