VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 12/12/13)—American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) has endorsed the “Statement of Principles and Recommended Practices for Confronting Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery” that was publicly released yesterday by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) in conjunction with International Human Rights Day.
“People of faith can use a variety of avenues to combat issues as systemically entrenched as human trafficking and modern slavery,” says ABHMS Deputy Executive Director, Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Michaele Birdsall, CPA, who is a member of ICCR’s board. “An avenue that is often overlooked—particularly by churches and institutions that hold investments—is the power to leverage our role and influence as corporate shareholders to educate and help change company behaviors that directly or indirectly support this activity.”
According to the website of the Washington, D.C.-based Polaris Project, causes of human trafficking include the following:
- Lack of community awareness of the issue;
- Lack of response training by government and community institutions;
- Ineffective or dormant laws to address the crime;
- Traffickers perceiving little deterrence to affect their criminal operations; and
- Consumer willingness to buy goods and services from industries that rely on forced labor, thereby creating a profit incentive for labor traffickers to maximize revenue with minimal production costs.
American Baptists are encouraged to become involved at the local level in implementing the statement’s recommended practices, including the following:
- Implement a corporate policy for business travel to use hotel chains that have adopted the ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) Code or similar policies to combat sex trafficking.
- Determine high-risk sectors, regions and commodities associated with human trafficking. (Helpful resources include The U.S. State Department’s “Trafficking in Persons Report” and the Department of Labor’s “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.”) Implement ongoing human rights impact assessments that cover adverse trafficking and slavery abuses to which a company may cause or contribute through its own activities or its suppliers’ activities.
- Join public-private partnerships to advance actions that address root causes of trafficking.
- Work with community groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as the Polaris Project. Via a national, toll-free hotline known as the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, the Polaris Project connects trafficked victims with services in their area.
- Work with NGOs and faith-based organizations to provide the necessary services and support for survivors of trafficking and slavery.
“The exploitation of persons—for labor or sexual purposes—is the third largest illegal ‘business’ after drug and arms trafficking, says the Rev. David Schilling, ICCR’s senior program director.
“In 2012, the International Labor Organization conservatively estimated that some 21 million persons globally, including in the United States, remain enslaved. Approximately 14.2 million people are victims of forced labor, and another 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation.
“The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility members have been working with companies to ensure that they are doing everything in their power to prevent trafficking and slavery within their spheres of impact,” Schilling continues. “To mitigate risks of these violations in their operations and supply chains, ICCR members believe it is incumbent on companies to establish comprehensive human rights due diligence policies and procedures that incorporate trafficking and slavery provisions based on international human rights standards and labor conventions.”
In January, ICCR will send the statement to companies, beginning with the food and agriculture sector and the hospitality sector.
A coalition of approximately 300 faith-based institutional investors, ICCR seeks to transform the corporate world by integrating social values into corporate and investor actions. ABHMS is a founding member of ICCR.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies—the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA—ministers as the caring heart and serving hands of Jesus Christ across the United States and Puerto Rico through a multitude of initiatives that focus on discipleship, community and justice.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.