Saturday, November 24, 2012

Taking on Human Trafficking

Below I have compiled my notes taken during a session with David Arkless, President, Corporate and Government Affairs, of ManpowerGroup, and Jean Baderschneider, Vice President, Global Procurement, of ExxonMobil Global Services Company. As with all blog posts in this series, what I have written below should be considered paraphrases, not direct quotes.

How to Combat Human Trafficking

Jean Baderschneider: This requires focus from leadership and the organizational culture they create. There must be training, transparency, and action with a long-term focus. ExxonMobil’s supply chain audits will address human trafficking (a tool to identify and address human trafficking risk is in development). This issue requires extensive training to both increase awareness and teach people what to look for.

David Arkless: Manpower has a global approach to ensure employers have the right to be an employer. Agree this issue requires training and education. It is often dangerous work. They try to engage with governments that are supporting (or turning a blind eye toward) human trafficking. Some governments exploit their own people and benefit financially from the slave trade. This is a good project for companies to work together and (carefully) use leverage to put pressure on governments.

JB: One promising new direction is data creation and mining. The current environment is so dangerous for NGOs that they need more government involvement.

DA: Companies must show governments how to shift from criminal trafficking to ethical migrant labor and show them it is also more profitable.

Why Combat Human Trafficking?

JB: She personally believes fighting human trafficking is a moral duty more than a business case, but the business case is to have the best trained, legal labor force available. ExxonMobil allocates resources to fighting human trafficking because it is part of their business model.

DA: He had to come up with a cash positive business model to convince the Board of Directors to commit funds. Their “case study” exceeded financial projections, partially because of unexpected and intangible benefits, such as improved reputation and brand perception. Manpower is now perceived to be the #1 company in their industry due to ethical positioning.

JB: ExxonMobil expects problems due to the complexity of their supply chain. This is why the human trafficking tool for social audits is being developed.

What are key risks?

DA: Manpower had to focus on labor-intensive risks. One big issue was document forgery. They needed to train people in all their offices how to identify forgeries. This requires a more sophisticated level of expertise. Forgery in human trafficking is rampant and well-developed. There are not enough police or investigators worldwide to tackle this, especially in “problem” countries or regions.

JB: The hard work is identifying who to partner with and, especially, who can be trusted. There is a huge need to increase awareness. Governments are tricky and their policies are not always helpful. You need to be willing to stand your ground. Organizations prioritize human trafficking because it is the right thing to do, definitely not strategically or financially beneficial (especially at first). Tackling human trafficking networks is complicated and potentially dangerous.

DA: The internal structure of many trafficking networks is better developed and managed than many countries.

JB: We need to focus on the Guiding Principles role of government versus role of business and start holding governments responsible for protecting their citizens.

DA: Organizations can join together and address government shortfalls and make a business case to convince governments that trafficking is a risky model, especially because it involves a criminal element.

JB: In the same respect, businesses should do all they can to ensure no human trafficking exists in their supply chain and stand their ground against governments standing in their way. Companies should establish standards for their own operations, apply them to suppliers and down through the supply chain. Companies should also encourage training throughout their supply chain network so people understand the human rights aspect, know how to identify signs of human trafficking, and know what to do and who to go to with questions or if they see something suspicious. Due to technology, it is easier for companies to use NGOs to gather and mine data, but it is still dangerous work [speaks of bomb threats and suspicious car accidents].

DA: There are not enough local and international police or investigative resources devoted to human trafficking, especially considering the number of humans trafficked (~21 million) and the sophistication of the networks.

What is the business case?

JB: We want to employ the best trained, legal labor force available.

DA: We used one country as a case study and the unexpected intangible benefits (reputation and brand perception) made the difference.

JB: Partnering with some suppliers, NGOs, and some governments is important to continue increasing awareness. Need to find a way to work with the “bad” governments.

DA: Document forgery was the tipping point for them. Now they have people in all their offices to identify forged documents.


My takeaways from the talk:
  • Fighting human trafficking networks is dangerous work
  • Human trafficking networks are sophisticated and often operate with benefit of government officials
  • A business case can be made, depending on how you approach the problem and the solution
  • Each company and industry has a unique area they can focus on (e.g., document forgery)
  • Companies should work together, (carefully) using leverage against “bad” or complicit governments

Obviously this is a very complicated issue, difficult to tackle with any depth during an hour long session. However it is valuable to learn how companies in very different industries have identified ways to tackle human trafficking within their own supply chain network. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I’ll write on this subject. As always, if you have any comments, questions, or corrections related to the above, please let me know.

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