ABA Urges Companies to Adopt Anti-Human Trafficking Policies

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By Yin Wilczek

March 3 — The American Bar Association March 3 asked chief executive officers and general counsel in Fortune 500 companies to adopt and implement anti-human trafficking policies consistent with the ABA's model business and supplier principles.

In a letter, ABA President William Hubbard noted that some 20.9 million men, women and children are subject to forced labor around the globe, and as many as 168 million children are in child labor situations.

“I write to ask for your company’s assistance in fighting the scourge of human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery that affects millions of men, women, and children worldwide,” Hubbard said in the letter.

Improvements Needed

Hubbard added that although a majority of Fortune 100 companies with global supply chains have adopted labor trafficking policies, many of the policies “could be further improved and better implemented.”

The ABA principles will provide a “practical and flexible tool” to help companies and their suppliers develop or refine their policies in line with the specific requirements of their businesses, he said.

The ABA principles, adopted in February 2014, provide a “high level articulation” of a business's commitment to addressing trafficking and child labor. They are consistent with the United Nation's Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, according to Hubbard's letter.

A June 2014 report commissioned by the ABA showed that more than half of Fortune 100 companies have publicly disclosed policies on human trafficking and nearly two-thirds have policies on forced labor.

Separately, attorneys said in a recent webcast that a final rule issued earlier this year by three federal agencies to strengthen protections against human trafficking could have a huge impact on companies doing business with the U.S. government abroad.

The rule, released by the Department of Defense, General Services Administration and NASA, requires certain contractors that conduct a threshold level of business for the federal government outside the U.S. to certify that, after conducting due diligence, they and their suppliers are not engaged in any trafficking-related activities.

To contact the reporter on this story: Yin Wilczek in Washington at ywilczek@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kristyn Hyland at khyland@bna.com

The ABA's letter is available at http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/business_law/hubbard_letter.authcheckdam.pdf.