January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, so I wanted to write a blog post on what supply chain management professionals can do to address this global crisis. Modern-day slavery is the fastest-growing organized crime in the world. In fact, there are currently more than 40 million victims worldwide, lining human traffickers’ pockets with $150 billion every year. These stark facts underscore the importance of us all paying closer attention, being vigilant and doing our parts to help eradicate this disaster. Meticulous inspection of our supply chains is an essential undertaking — but this is often easier said than done.
While many businesses are working to determine the right approach for eradicating human trafficking from their supply chains, some have yet to make this a priority. These organizations may be concerned about the risks involved, overwhelmed by the concept of tracking each and every layer of their networks, or intimidated by the investment it requires. Following are five common questions supply chain managers ask on these topics, as well as strategies for tackling each concern with transparency, clarity and the best possible results.
Question 1: Why are we responsible for our supplier's supplier's supplier?
Answer: Human traffickers are sophisticated; they prey on the most vulnerable people, often in less-regulated countries, and they create systems to keep people enslaved. The only way to truly stop modern slavery is by striking at the root of the problem: where the funding begins. The unfortunate truth is, many large companies — maybe even yours — could unknowingly be feeding these forced labor organizations. One way to minimize the impact of human trafficking in your networks is through the use of data. By incorporating data-driven analytics into your supply chain management processes, you can better understand which companies are potentially contributing to the scourge of modern slavery.
Question 2: What is my company legally responsible for?
Answer: Many countries are now following the United States and United Kingdom, which recently passed and amended the four laws below to increase levels of awareness, push action and strengthen the global fight against human trafficking. This requires a deeper level of supply chain awareness from all major companies worldwide. Although there is no legal punishment if you don’t take action, policies are rapidly evolving and expanding to place legal responsibility on the corporations profiting from unethical supply chain practices. Furthermore, consider the potential risk to your brand if something is discovered in your supply chain and you did nothing to prevent it. For specific details on the major regulations that exist now and how they affect organizations, read this document.
Question 3: Are companies complying?
Answer: Unfortunately, a majority of companies are not. These human rights laws are relatively new, so it will take time for companies to investigate what’s happening in their supply chains and take appropriate action. The good news is that some major companies are taking swift, decisive action, which will encourage others to follow suit.
Question 4: If it’s not legally required, why should I take action now?
Answer: There are four major reasons:
- These regulations are only going to tighten, and fines can be added at any point. It’s best to prepare now to avoid last-minute scrambling.
- As social media becomes more powerful, brand equity can be shattered in seconds.
- Investors pay close attention to risk; if you’re depending on a faulty and unsustainable supply chain, that is an enormous risk.
- This is an issue of integrity. The regulations are about saving people who are enslaved and preventing more from being harmed. Action should be driven by your company’s mission, values and goals.
Question 5: How should we begin?
Answer: So far, 106,472 organizations worldwide have posted a public transparency in supply chains statement, including those voluntarily complying. You can join them by gaining a better understanding of your current supply chain and committing to thoroughly vet future suppliers. This will help ensure your goods are made ethically and that the public won’t discover something damning about your company before you do. It’s also a good idea to join organizations fighting for the cause. Doing so makes it easier to become part of the solution, while collaborating and learning from others.