A MAST Program published in Concordia Newsletter (March) - Campaign Against Labor Trafficking
Global Partnerships Week Virtual Panel Discussion
The Role of Business and Public-Private Partnerships in Combating Modern Day Slavery
March 8, 9:30AM EST (Virtual Convening)
In celebration of Global Partnership Week, Thomson Reuters Foundation and Concordia hosted a virtual panel on “The Role of Business and Public-Private Partnerships in Combating Modern Day Slavery.” There are an estimated 45 million people held in modern slavery around the world today and illegal profits generated by forced labor amount to $150 billion annually. The global demand for cheap labor is fueling the slave trade, and market forces create both the supply and the demand for forced labor. Businesses can therefore play a critical role in the fight against modern slavery: they have the power to trigger immediate change for workers by simply switching suppliers, by enforcing better auditing and by increasing accountability. This virtual panel discussion brought together nearly 250 participants from around the world to explore concrete business solutions being implemented to root out this scourge. Amanda Davidson, Sustainability Officer at NXP Semiconductors, and Matt Friedman, CEO of the Mekong Club, shared the innovations, best practices, and challenges their organizations face, as well as successful examples of public-private partnerships, to combat modern slavery. The panel also featured a focus on the role of data tools in the fight against modern slavery. The following are key takeaways and initiatives discussed in the panel. Companies must take initiative and demonstrate industry leadership in order to remain competitive in today’s global economy. Friedman explained that as people pay more attention to the issue of labor trafficking, companies are responsible for looking deeper into their supply chains at Tier 2 and 3 levels rather than stopping at Tier 1. This requirement is a shift in the ‘business as usual’ mindset, therefore resources and patience are required while companies develop mechanisms to tackle this complex challenge. Davidson meanwhile showcased NXP as an industry leader in making structural commitments to ensure that fair labor practices are implemented throughout supply chains and to hold people accountable for meeting increased labor rights standards. Both organizations recognize the importance of continuously training employees as well as suppliers throughout the process to help them understand proper labor practices and how to implement them. The panel also stated the importance of developing tools and resources to support and enforce this accountability. Data can play an integral role in overcoming challenges, determining best practices, and ensuring fair labor standards are being met at every point along the supply chain. Friedman highlighted the importance of standardized information sharing. Data needs to be made actionable so that companies can identify red flags and figure out where exactly the problems are occurring. And while audits may not always be effective for all organizations, they do provide a wealth of data useful in identifying geographical locations that are hotspots for modern slavery, factors that allow these situations to exist, and which legislation has been effective in enacting change. Davidson spoke of the tools NXP employs to gather data, including annual risk assessments for suppliers, and how NXP is working with Verite and Palantir to gather data on the performance of brokers to build a comprehensive map of the supply chain. Participants in the discussion were curious as to what role they could play to aid the private sector in combating labor trafficking. The panelists identified training as the most important tool for supporting suppliers in reform. They also stated the need for improving market conditions for responsibly sourced materials in response to concerns over increased costs for suppliers. Nicholas Glicher, the Legal Director at Thomson Reuters Foundation, emphasized the importance of promoting and raising awareness about best practices, as well as existing awards and certifications that address modern day slavery in business. Glicher referenced Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Stop Slavery Award. The award was launched in 2016 to champion efforts of corporates who act in a sustainable and responsible way in order to create a race to the top, therefore encouraging more organizations to get involved. NXP was a 2016 Award recipient alongside HPE. Awards such as this provide a wealth of resources that are available to organizations to help drive companies forward and highlight different pathways towards best practices. In addition to awards, multi-stakeholder initiatives, resource and information sharing, and public-private partnerships are valuable tools for addressing modern day slavery. The panelists recognized the importance of unity both within and between industries and sectors for developing solutions applicable to different points along supply chains. Rather than vilifying business, organizations should be supporting the private sector to find where the problems exist, fix them, and move forward in implementing best practices for combating modern day slavery. Only through collaboration can a challenge as complex and ubiquitous as modern day slavery be overcome.