The Role Businesses Can Play

The Role Businesses Can Play in Anti-Trafficking - It’s More Than Just Cleaning Up Supply Chains

Taken and adapted from the original interview conducted and written by Freedom Story

Trafficking and other forms of labor and human rights abuses are so pervasive, and yet so elusive to eradication that it truly takes having everyone on board to combat it. Because the root causes of trafficking (discrimination, poverty, a devaluing of certain human lives, social cultural and/or legal exclusion and of course the demand) are systemic, it takes a systemic response. Helen Sworn, Founder and International Director of Chab Dai explains,

“I used to say that no one organization, no one NGO can address this on their own. But now I’m totally convinced that, actually, no one sector can address this on their own. As the NGO sector, we don’t own this issue. This cannot be us in our white capes coming in and saving the world from trafficking. The underlying systemic issues are way too complex to be addressed by any one sector.”  

Sworn argues that in order to tackle the problem more effectively, we need to be more thoughtful and clearer about what each player—whether NGO, government actor, or corporation—can offer and can influence, and thereby leverage each sectors’ core competencies. For NGOs, this means raising awareness, and bringing a victim-centered approach to the table. For government actors, this means setting and implementing effective laws and ensuring effective prosecution for noncompliance.

 But what does it mean for businesses?

 The obvious solution, and the one most people focus on, is cleaning up the supply chain to make sure they’re slave-free. “But,” Sworn states, “It’s not just about slavery, it’s about all human rights, and I think if we approach things from a human rights based framework rather than a purely anti-trafficking framework, we’ll be able to address much more of the complexities and abuses that exist.  These other human rights abuses have often been ignored when investigating supply chains.”

 When you cast the net wider, you can also pick up other human rights abuses in additional realms like:

  • Labor rights abuses

  • Ethnic or gender discrimination issues

  • Sexual harassment cases

  • Other power abuses

 How NGOs Can More Effectively Engage the Corporate Sector?

 Rather than pitting ourselves [NGOs] against corporations, Sworn advocates working alongside them to show that we can provide valuable services that are in the corporations’ interest. She says that some of the ways she has worked with compliance officers is in helping them understand what some of the legal frameworks are within their jurisdiction, what some of the services are that could be available to their employees, and essentially, coming alongside them and asking:

“What is it that I can do for you? What can I help resource you in? How can we have a conversation?”

 Freedom Story has seen similar partnerships between NGOs and law enforcement agencies become very effective in shifting law enforcement towards a victim-centered approach, and a much stronger working relationship. If we can apply the same model of collaboration between NGOs and the corporate sector, we may be able to pose a formidable front against those perpetrating abuses and exploitation.

 This interview with Chab Dai’s International Director and Founder, Helen Sworn, was conducted and written by The Freedom Story as a part of a larger article posted on Freedom Story’s website. Read the full article and interview here.

Amanda DalyComment