Majority of Fortune 100 companies have policies on human trafficking and forced labor

 More than half of all Fortune 100 companies have publicly available policies on human trafficking and nearly two-thirds have policies on forced labor, according to a study released today by the American Bar Association, the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University (ASU), and the ASU School of Politics and Global Studies. As noted by Mrs. Cindy McCain, co-Chair of the Arizona Governor’s Task Force on Human Trafficking: “This is a milestone. The fact that a majority of the country’s leading companies have these policies and have made them publicly available is evidence that the business community has joined the fight against human trafficking. In my travels both nationally and internationally, I am seeing an increased awareness about human trafficking and more willingness to take concrete steps to combat it.”

The report, “How Do Fortune 100 Corporations Address Potential Links to Human Rights Violations in a Globally Integrated Economy?” presents the first ever analysis of major companies’ publicly available policies on human trafficking, forced labor and the trade in conflict minerals.

“The majority of this nation’s leading corporations are taking a stand against human trafficking,” ABA President James R. Silkenat said. “The business community should be proud of its progress in preventing the use of trafficked labor, and we urge all companies to adopt and implement policies to address this issue.”

ASU Professor Daniel Rothenberg led the research project and supervised two teams of students from the School of Politics and Global Studies and the Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law. “We were surprised by the data, which revealed that major companies are moving more quickly than we expected to develop policies that address potential human rights and labor abuses within their global supply chains,” Rothenberg said.

The researchers found that 54 percent of all Fortune 100 companies have publicly available policies addressing human trafficking and that 66 percent have policies on forced labor. Furthermore, when the research team eliminated companies without supply chains (such as those engaged in insurance, banking and financial services), the remaining 79 companies — termed the “Target Group” in the study — displayed even greater coverage, with nearly two-thirds (66 percent) having policies on human trafficking and more than three-quarters (76 percent) having policies on forced labor. In addition, over one third (37 percent) of all Fortune 100 companies had publicly available policies addressing conflict minerals and over four in ten (43 percent) of the Target Group had such policies. Because not all Fortune 100 companies deal in conflict minerals, the numbers on these policies are lower.

While there remains significant variation in corporations’ methods to address these issues and their impact, the research suggests that Fortune 100 companies, as well as the larger business community, may increasingly develop partnerships with civil society groups, government agencies and others. “Some of these changes are driven by legislation, but there also appears to be an emerging norm among businesses that these issues are a key element of corporate social responsibility,” Rothenberg said.

This report is part of an ongoing multiyear research project of the American Bar Association and Arizona State University. Findings will be presented in future reports and will track changes among major companies.

This research began with the creation of the ABA Task Force on Human Trafficking by past President Laurel G. Bellows in August 2012 to mobilize the legal profession to combat human trafficking through public awareness, advocacy, training and education. Along with this project, the ABA has developed a number of policies on human trafficking, including a resolution adopting the Model Principles of the ABA Model Business and Supplier Policies on Labor Trafficking and Child Labor and calling on businesses to implement their own strategies against human trafficking and child labor. “The ABA’s powerful initiatives provide business with corporate tools to fight slavery’s shameful violation of human rights and dignity,” Bellows said. “Through strengthened laws, supply chain and human resource policies we are poised to leap forward and stop the horror of modern-day slavery that persists in our country and around the world.”