A movement by the Slave Free Campaign has spurred anti-human trafficking action in the Hong Kong business world. In an effort to work in tandem with businesses, not against them, the Slave Free Campaign according to founder Julie Lim, “…aims to integrate human rights into business practices in order to eliminate labor trafficking in global supply chains.” The assumption by Lim is that most retail brands don’t understand what is happening in their factories operating in remote areas by middlemen. In auxiliary to the Slave Free Campaigns movement, Judge Zervos of the High Court of Hong Kong, recently made judgement highlighting the government’s failure to implement a comprehensive system of legislation and training covering slavery in all its forms. Both the Slave Free Campaign and High Court’s actions are ancillary to the increasing criticism from outside Hong Kong for a lack of action against human trafficking. The U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report downgraded Hong Kong from Tier 2 to Tier 2 Watch List last year, and the United Nations CESCR Humans Rights Committee has persistently reported the high level of trafficking in Hong Kong, China. All of these efforts have justified a need for change in Hong Kong’s policy against human-trafficking.
In February, a Consumer class action lawsuit was filed by consumer Danell Tomasell in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts against Nestlé USA and in March, a second consumer class action lawsuit against Mars Inc. and Mars Chocolate North America LLC. The woman alleges the chocolatiers deceived consumers by failing to adequately inform consumers that child labor was involved in the cocoa beans used in the defendants’ products. According to the complaints, the defendant’s chocolate products are made from cocoa beans from West Africa. Both suits argue that had consumers known the products may contain cocoa procured from child or slave labor, they would not have purchased the products. The consumer class action lawsuits seeks judgment against the defendants, awarding plaintiff and the class all appropriate damages including trebling, attorneys’ fees, costs, interest, and further relief to be determined. Similar failed Consumer class action cases against Nestlé USA , Hershey and Mars Inc. were thrown out of court in 2016.
International law has been a powerful medium for defining, preventing, protecting, prosecuting, and partnering against human trafficking world-wide. A set of eight international protocols and/or conventions are fundamental for countries to develop a national plan and display progress in anti-trafficking efforts. Meeting the minimum standard is demonstrated through legislation, prosecutions, and protection of victims as deemed necessary by the following relevant international conventions:
The annual Stop Slavery Award was awarded to four winners at the 2017 Trust Conference. The award was led by Adidas with additional recognition as an “Outstanding Achiever” for excelling in every judging category. The international fashion retailer C&A was awarded for going beyond compliance standards in all categories. Through the “Bright Future” program, The Co-operative Group offers employment opportunities for victims of modern day slavery and was honored for having excelled in business partnership engagement and for having demonstrated excellence in supplier engagement and capacity building. The major U.S. technology company, Intel Corporation, was awarded for its outstanding work in demonstrating and implementing innovation across its programs against child sexual exploitation and refusing new business to suppliers who have failed to implement measures to combat slavery.
The Stop Slavery Award was launched by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The initiative recognizes companies that have taken concrete steps to eradicate forced labor from their supply chains. Short-listed nominee candidate companies included: Aldi UK, Barclays Bank Plc, CH2M, Fortescue Metals Group, Marks & Spencer, Marshall Plc, MGM China Holdings Ltd, Nestle’ S.A., Shiva Hotels, Waitrose, and Walmart Stores, Inc.
Every successful supply chain program has a designated third-party assessor providing due diligence to both the supplier and the buyer. In the case of the Fair Food Program (FFP), the Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC) is charged with monitoring participating growers’ operations for compliance with the Fair Food Code of Conduct. Unlike other social responsibility programs however, FFSC operates in the unique structure created by the Coalition of Immokalee Worker Fair Food Program agreements, with their emphasis on worker participation and effective market consequences for non-compliance.
In a face-to-face interview, CHTCS discussed the cause and effect of FFSC’s role in the supply chain with the Executive Director Judge Laura Safer-Espinoza (retired), Director of Development Lindsay Adams and Associate Director Matthew Wooten.