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ASCM Insights

COVID-19 Fuels Slavery in Our Supply Chains

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The effects of COVID-19 are apparent and all around us. However, one of the less evident consequences is how the pandemic is influencing those who suffer from social and economic inequalities; who face sex, race, age or disability discrimination; and those without basic services, such as housing, drinking water, sanitation or education.

“The pandemic is fueling slavery and sexual exploitation,” a United Nations (UN) report warns, citing “a direct link” between COVID-19 and the risk of exploitation. This includes children and adults being victims of forced or debt-bonded labor, as well as being sold and trafficked.

“These practices have increased in the past months,” the UN experts write. “In some cases, victims are further subjected to ill-treatment, torture or even disappearance when they are prevented from informing as to their fate and whereabouts and put outside the protection of the law.”

This past week, we recognized the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. December 2 marks the day in 1949 that the UN General Assembly adopted the first convention to fight human trafficking.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), more than 40 million people worldwide are victims of modern-day slavery. This term refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception or abuse of power.

In addition, the ILO states that more than 150 million children are currently subject to child labor. This accounts for a shocking one in 10 children globally.

Inspiring purposeful global engagement

In the most recent edition of SCM Now magazine, Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Rennie interviews PYXERA Global CEO Deirdre White. PYXERA Global’s mission is to reinvent how international players engage to overcome global challenges. The organization does this by something White calls “trisector partnerships,” which leverage the unique strengths of public, private and social interest organizations to give communities the knowledge and tools necessary to solve complex problems. 

In the interview, Rennie and White discuss strategies for ensuring ethical and equitable supply chains. “The most pressing problems that the world faces today — COVID-19, structural racism, climate change — are all deeply rooted in systemic challenges that have no respect for borders or sectors,” White says. “Despite the monumental challenges we face, there are awe-inspiring opportunities to correct course, and we should be energized by the prospect.”

She adds that supply chain professionals are in a unique position to set new, world-changing standards and hold themselves and others accountable. “Don't miss this unparalleled moment in history when institutional investors, corporate leaders, customers and employees are in unprecedented alignment — and when the world so desperately needs leadership,” White urges.

Everyone in supply chain has a role to play in the effort to eradicate slavery while safeguarding and supporting our most vulnerable populations. Read about PYXERA Global’s strategies in the interview, then gain additional insights from industry experts and thought leaders in the pages of the award-winning SCM Now.

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer at ASCM, the largest nonprofit association for supply chain and the global leader in supply chain organizational transformation and innovation. Prior to this, he was the managing director for the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. His leadership roles have included project management, business process redesign, and individual and organizational alignment. Eshkenazi may be contacted through editorial@ascm.org.

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