Private Sector Urged to Help Combat Illicit Trade

file photo

By The Maritime Executive 10-19-2017 06:51:43

The Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) discussed private industry's role in combating human trafficking and other forms of illicit trades at a conference in Panama this week.

“Although governments bear the primary responsibility for combating trafficking in persons, the private sector has a critical role to guard against the exploitation of workers and ensure that human rights abuse ends,” said TRACIT Director of Programs Ulrika Bonnier. “Consumers are also increasingly aware and concerned about the conditions under which the goods that they buy are made.”

The private sector has a critical role to guard against the exploitation of workers and ensure that supply chains are free from forced or trafficked labor, she says. Failing to do so can potentially lead to severe reputational damage, lost contracts and market share as well as costs associated with criminal and civil liability. 

“On the flip side, promoting human rights and fair conditions can increase consumer trust, build brand loyalty and generate goodwill. 

“In addition, it is in the interests of companies that are abiding by labor laws to advocate and push an anti-human trafficking agenda in the interest of a level playing field free from those companies that make their illegal profits from unpaid wages. In short, human trafficking is bad for business.”

Bonnier cited the example of trafficking in persons and the Thai fishing industry. In 2014, The Guardian uncovered widespread labor exploitation in the Thai fishing industry in general, and within the company CP Foods in particular. They wrote that “Thai 'ghost ships' that enslave, brutalize and even kill workers are linked to global shrimp supply chain.” Major U.S. and European retailers such as Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco were mentioned by name in the article. 

“The blow-back from civil society was brutal, with Anti-Slavery International’s Director Aidan McQuade stating that 'If you buy prawns or shrimp from Thailand, you will be buying the produce of slave labour.' The European Commission issued a yellow card warning in April 2015, meaning that if Thailand did not clean up its fishing industry in terms of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and human rights and labor abuses, the E.U. would issues a ban on Thai imports to the E.U. market. In this case, the uncovering of trafficking within one company had industry-wide consequences.”  

Bonnier is an international policy expert on corruption, illicit trade and human trafficking.  She has authored a number of books, including Trafficking in Persons and Corruption: Breaking the Chain, published by the OECD in 2016. “Moving forward, we also need to look for new ways to leverage private sector information to address trafficking in persons,” she said 

The 38th Annual Crime Stoppers International Conference brought together business executives, government representative and law enforcement officials for three days of discussion. TRACIT promotes best practices and lessons learned across sectors to help protect supply chains from forced or trafficked labor.