When President Obama called on federal agencies to strengthen efforts to combat human trafficking in March 2012, he committed the United States government -- the largest single purchaser of goods and services around the world -- to lead by example in its procurement practices. Six month later, he issued Executive Order 13627 to strengthen protections against human trafficking in government contracts which will help to ensure that American taxpayer dollars are not used to support modern slavery. As President Obama noted, both governments and business leaders have a responsibility to examine their operations, work with their suppliers, and take steps to prevent forced labor in their global supply chains.
This work is not easy. Networks of supply chains that cross multiple borders can complicate attempts to map operations and monitor recruitment and labor conditions. This is why the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons joined forces with Verité, Made in a Free World, and The Aspen Institute to develop ResponsibleSourcingTool.org, a new online resource to help federal contractors and business professionals better understand and visualize the risks that may exist in their supply chains.
Based on research conducted by Verité, a leading labor rights organization, this site offers an in-depth examination of 11 key sectors and 43 commodities at high risk for human trafficking or trafficking-related activities, such as charging workers recruitment fees or confiscating their identity documents. The site enables users to analyze sector-specific risk factors as well as social, economic, and political risk factors. It also offers a comprehensive set of tools and resources to assist companies in developing systems to prevent human trafficking in supply chains.
A series of multi-stakeholder meetings informed the development of these tools. The Aspen Institute convened four consultations to preview the initiative and gather feedback from federal contractors; anti-trafficking and procurement experts; NGO and labor union representatives; corporate managers; and survivors of human trafficking. A fifth consultation, held in Thailand, focused on developing a set of tools tailored to the seafood sector.
I am pleased that ResponsibleSourcingTool.org has been launched, but I also know that the real work is just beginning. This site will only succeed if federal contractors, companies, procurement officials, advocates, and consumers use it.
I hope you will share ResponsibleSourcingTool.org with your peers, contractors, companies, and suppliers. Please encourage them to examine their operations at every tier and incorporate best practices to reduce the risk of human trafficking and help rid their supply chains of unscrupulous labor practices. Together, we can lead by example and set the global standard for protections against human trafficking in government and corporate supply chains.
About the Author: Susan Coppedge is the Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State.
For more information:
- Visit the State Department's new ResponsibleSourcingTool.org website.
- Read other DipNotes about the United States' ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking.
- Learn more about the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report.
- Read about the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.