ATEST Applauds Introduction of Federal Business Supply Chain Transparency Legislation

For Release: June 12, 2014

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), a coalition of U.S.-based human rights organizations committed to eradicating modern slavery and human trafficking, applauds the introduction of the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2014 (H.R. 4842). Introduced on a bipartisan basis by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), H.R. 4842 will require public companies with annual worldwide receipts above $100 million to include in their annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission a disclosure describing measures taken to identify and address conditions of forced labor, slavery, human trafficking and the worst forms of child labor within a company’s supply chains.

“Businesses shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the working conditions of people who make their products, and the supply chain transparency act is a great step toward making sure they can’t. American consumers want and deserve to know what’s behind the food, clothing, and other goods they use every day. Having companies report what they are doing to prevent trafficked or forced labor isn’t asking much; and for tens of millions of people working in conditions of modern slavery it is absolutely urgent,” said Melysa Sperber, Director of ATEST.

Enactment of supply chain transparency legislation will provide consumers with information about companies that are – and are not – taking substantial steps to address slavery. It will also help investors better understand the reputational and other risks of investing in particular companies.  The legislation does not require a company to take any specific action to combat human trafficking. Instead, it simply requires a company to disclose actions it has taken. The legislation recognizes a company’s ability to positively impact human rights around the world.  Federal legislation can even help American businesses by establishing clear federal standards and a level playing field, avoiding the need for companies to comply with differing state laws on supply chain transparency, such as California’s transparency law.

The U.S. is the world’s largest importer, and the public is increasingly demanding information about the human rights impact of products in American stores. In 2012, the U.S. Dept. of Labor identified 134 goods from 74 countries made by forced and child labor. Passage of H.R. TBD will demonstrate U.S. leadership in reducing slavery by empowering the public to make informed decisions about the products they purchase and the companies in which they invest.

“We are grateful to Congresswoman Maloney for her leadership on this issue.  Free the Slaves and its partners in Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Brazil, and India are daily witness to slavery and child labor embedded in global supply chains.  Slavery stops when it is exposed.  We welcome this bill’s requirement of transparency in supply chains, which is essential to the process of ending slavery,” said Free the Slaves Programs Director Karen Stauss.

“In California the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) has seen how greater business transparency around supply chain issues with the passage of SB 657 has increased constructive dialogues with businesses and increased consumer awareness.  We also know from working with survivors everyday on the ground, business engagement is key to preventing and ending modern slavery in our life time. This is why federal legislation tackling this issue is so imperative” emphasizes Stephanie Richard, Policy & Legal Services Director, Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST).

“At ECPAT-USA, believe this bill represents a tremendous step forward for the protection of children from sexual exploitation.  We look forward to a day when all companies have policies against sexual exploitation of children. We believe employees will be proud of their companies and customers will be happy to patronize companies with such policies.   Representative Carolyn Maloney, by drafting and introducing this bill, affirms our gratitude for her leadership in this field.” Carol Smolenski, Executive Director, ECPAT-USA.

“We applaud Representatives Maloney and Smith for introducing this bipartisan legislation, which will help ensure transparency so consumers can make informed purchases. Businesses are in a unique position to address modern slavery at the scale at which it exists by eliminating forced or child labor from their supply chains. This bill moves us closer to that goal by requiring large companies to report on how they are addressing human trafficking. Polaris Project welcomes the opportunity to work with companies to help them achieve their business goals while eradicating human trafficking at the same time,” said Chris Ann Keehner, Polaris Project’s Director of Policy.