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October 08, 2012

Investors Report on Campaign to Address Human Trafficking at London Olympics
    by Robert Kropp

A coalition of investors led by Christian Brothers Investment Services report that all but one of 33 corporations responded to its letter on the issue, and a number have taken concrete steps to address human trafficking.

SocialFunds.com -- In advance of the Olympic Games held in London this past summer, a coalition of institutional investors led by Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) ensured that the issue of human trafficking at major sporting events would be addressed by writing to 33 hospitality companies and corporate sponsors, "calling for immediate and transparent actions to train staff and suppliers to recognize and avoid the trafficking of workers into slavery, to monitor their supply chains, and to examine hiring and recruitment practices."

The coalition, representing $58 billion in assets under management, also included members of the
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and the UK-based Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR). It created a website—Celebration Without Exploitation—to call the attention of the public to the issue.

In a
report issued last week, the coalition documented the striking success of their campaign to address an issue too often swept under the rug by corporations. Thirty-two of the 33 recipients of the letters responded to the coalition; and, the report states, "A number of companies have provided in their responses, or disclosed more comprehensively through public reporting, good practice in relation to one of the topic areas investors outlined in their letters."

However, "As shareholders, we find there are great risks to companies from human trafficking given the complexity of company supply chains," said Julie Tanner, Assistant Director of Socially Responsible Investing at CBIS and the principal author of the report. To address those risks, the report provided six recommendations:
• Include and define human trafficking in human rights policies;
• Expand human rights policies and programs to include fair and responsible hiring practices;
• Utilize human rights impact assessments to more thoroughly identify and address trafficking risks;
• Disclose additional information on anti-trafficking training programs for staff and suppliers;
• Provide greater detail on the audit process, including performance and integration of findings; and
• Improve public reporting on steps taken to combat human trafficking to demonstrate accountability to stakeholders.

The report also gives examples of best practice for each of its recommendations. During 2011, for instance, the hotel chain Accor had provided training in identifying and responding to suspected child sex trafficking to 23,500 employees. By 2015, 70% of Accor's hotels will have publicly committed to protecting children.

"By adopting the six practices highlighted in our report, corporations can have greater confidence that their systems and processes address these risks," Tanner said.

Contributors to the report also included Boston Common Asset Management, Calvert Investments, Catholic Health East, and The Marianist Province of the United States.

The only company that did not respond to the coalition's letter was Dow Chemical, the report reveals, "despite numerous requests and a petition on Change.org." Dow's sponsorship of the Olympic Games led to the resignation of an appointee to the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, because of its ownership of the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India. A 1984 leak of poisonous gas there killed 15,000 people, and the rates of rates of congenital deformities and cancers in communities near the factory remain high.

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