When I was working in Congress on what became the Trafficking Victims Protection Act back in 1999, we congressional staff paid little attention to the role of companies and their global supply chains in forced labor and human trafficking. We tended to focus more on trafficking as it related to sexual exploitation, recruiter and employer fraud or coercion, and domestic servitude.
Today, this focus has expanded within policy making circles and the general public, leading to a growing recognition that companies that employ global supply chains, can’t turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses by contractors or sub-contractors that are perpetrated in the process of delivering commodities or products. Increasingly, consumers, civil society and companies themselves see business enterprises with such supply chains as in some way responsible for what happens at their behest.
The efforts of the California legislature in passing SB-657, the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, is bringing forth new public knowledge on what companies do to stop forced labor and human trafficking within their supply chains. As Governor Schwarzenegger said when signing the legislation, SB-657 is intended to “increase transparency, allow consumers to make better, more informed choices and motivate businesses to ensure humane practices throughout the supply chain.”
Yet we need more leadership from California, which has so often led the nation in policy innovation. As KnowTheChain has demonstrated, numerous companies, including some major corporations, are not taking the simple step required by SB-657 and publicly declaring what is being done to prevent human trafficking from infecting their supply chain. California’s current elected leaders need to help further SB-657’s goals by taking action to ensure that every company follows the law they were elected to enforce. The promise of this legislation to shine a light into dark places truly will be fulfilled only when all companies fully embrace the law and the goals behind it.