The holiday season is upon us.  Along with cookie exchanges and holiday parties, many of us mark the season by buying numerous gifts, anywhere from a bag of coffee for the neighbors to a new computer for our spouse. This holiday season, Human Trafficking Search invites you to consider whether or not your purchase may be helping to fund human trafficking.

Although many think of human trafficking as mostly sex trafficking, the reality is that forced labor is a more common type of trafficking.  The International Labor Organization estimates that 24.9 million people are in forced labor, 16 million of those trafficking victims are in the private sector.

In part, this problem persists because multinational corporations have complex supply chains and do not always know what is happening in the lower tiers.  That is beginning to change as a result of a number of initiatives. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 require that businesses respect human rights. To help companies conduct the due diligence required to identify and mitigate risks, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development produced a due diligence guidance for responsible business conduct.  Additionally, advocates encourage companies to be transparent.  A coalition of civil society organizations advocate for companies to sign onto the transparency pledge, and the Open Apparel Registry is a database of apparel factories around the world.  While these voluntary initiatives are a step in the right direction, some believe it is not enough and are advocating for mandatory due diligence laws.

As consumers, we can also play an important role in ending slavery in supply chains.  We have the power and responsibility to use our purchasing power to support companies that are free from forced labor and respect other labor rights. This holiday season (and throughout the year for that matter), we can choose to be selective about the brands we invest in, in order to ensure that we are not funding the continuation of modern-day slavery.

It is daunting as an individual consumer to figure out which companies to support.  To make our work easier, a number of organizations have developed reports and lists.  End Slavery Now produces a list of slave-free companies.  The AFL-CIO has created a list of union made holiday gift ideas.

Happy Holidays!