The Fight Against Human Trafficking Gets Personal

Whether they know it or not, every company has trafficked labor in their supply chains. At The Coca-Cola Company, our Global Workplace Rights (GWR) team is dedicated to mitigating the risk of this issue in our supply chain. We manage our Workplace Rights Policy and Supplier Guiding Principles which expressly prohibit the use of all forms of forced labor, including prison labor, indentured labor, bonded labor, military labor, slave labor and human trafficking. Our Workplace Rights Policy is guided by international human rights principles, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labor Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The Policy provides a consistent approach to workplace rights worldwide and embeds it as an integral part of our culture, strategy and day-to-day operations.

In addition, we are one of the founding members of the Global Business Coalition Against Human Trafficking (gBCAT), a group of global corporations that recognize the critical role business can play in ending human trafficking and all forms of modern-day slavery. Education and awareness is key to success in combating all Human Rights issues. The GWR team has taken a multifaceted approach by developing Human Rights Due Diligence Checklists to increase awareness of potential Human Rights issues in our supply chain, creating a “Pass it Back” program to work with suppliers to develop a Human Rights Risk Assessment in their supply chains and by hosting a Learning Development series on Human Rights, with our most recent event focusing on Human Trafficking.

human trafficking awareness day Human Trafficking Poster from the Coca-Cola Atlanta Headquarters.

On National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, I would like to share my personal perspective on this issue. There is something that each of us, unrelated to our work responsibilities, can do with respect to this issue. Before I came to Atlanta in 2005, I was involved with the Big Brother program for over 40 years.  For 10 of those years I worked with a little brother, Jimmy, who was a trafficking victim brought from Rwanda to Washington, DC. He was provided support by a trafficking victims organization, and as his Big Brother, I worked with him to graduate high school and Junior College. Jimmy is now a GS-5 technician at the National Institute of Health.

One of the oldest ILO labor standards is on Forced Labor which includes slavery and human trafficking. Almost all countries have ratified the relevant treaties, yet in 2012, the ILO reported nearly 21 million people in human trafficking situations. The antecedents of the problem are poverty and lack of power. For many impoverished people, they believe their salvation is to come to the U.S. to build a better life for themselves and their families. This desperation makes these victims extremely vulnerable to traffickers. If each of us take just one action in our lives, think about how much we could accomplish…The power of many can make a big difference with this issue.

Ed Potter is Director of Global Workplace Rights at The Coca-Cola Company.