This story first appeared on Benojo on June 14, 2016. Image courtesy of Stop the Traffik.
STOP THE TRAFFIK hope to bring an end to human trafficking globally. This is reflected in their simple but powerful motto of ‘people shouldn’t be bought and sold’. A coalition of non-government, community and other organisations, together they work to prevent the physical, emotional and sexual abuse and harm done by human trafficking.
Their approach is a unique and effective one that combines community transformation, global campaigning and the gathering and sharing of knowledge. We spoke with Carolyn Kitto, the passionate director of STOP THE TRAFFIK Australia, to learn more about their work.
How STOP THE TRAFFIK Australia came to be:
In Australia, we started back in 2007 as a coalition between World Vision and the Salvation Army. World Vision was, in their fieldwork, finding in places where there is lots of poverty that kids and families were being tricked into going to work in factories and so on. Abuse was happening and they weren’t being paid. The Salvation Army was concerned more domestically on what was happening around trafficking particularly, but not exclusively, in trafficking around the sex trade and labour. A lot of people don’t realise that it happens in Australia too. STOP THE TRAFFIK Australia is now a coalition with about 30 members.
A unique model:
What we see our role as is to raise awareness and educate people about human trafficking. So everyone who is trafficked is trafficked from a community to a community. So the more that local communities know what human trafficking is and how they are involved in it, the more likely we are to abolish it again.
When it comes to business, the image a lot of people have of human trafficking is that it is associated with the sex industry or that it’s people in chains. At least two thirds of human trafficking in the world is associated with industry and manufacturing.
With Australia’s manufacturing largely having gone offshore – particularly during the last 15 to 20 years because wages are cheap – we are well connected to it through the clothes we wear, the technology we use, the sparkle in our car paint and our fingernail polish, the tea that we drink and so on. What we are trying to do is empower consumers around what they purchase because purchasing power is huge. We can say it with where we spend our money. This is an important issue and we are going to drive the demand for ethical, traffick-free products.
It’s then the same with businesses. Whether your business uses offshore manufacturing or you import goods that are used in your business – what do you know about your supply chain? The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights says that businesses are expected to respect human rights and address human right impacts, whether or not they are directly linked to their operation or the product and services in their business relationships. So in other words, there is an expectation that it’s best practice that businesses are actually aware of human rights impacts within their supply chains – even if they are not contributing to them.
On businesses changing their procurement process:
In our work, we are primarily a consumer-facing group so we have chosen to work on areas [such as fashion, fishing, tea, chocolate] where human trafficking is a major issue and where it impacts consumers strongly.
We don’t think it’s our job to do the putting in place of procurement procedures. What we have actually found is that in the process of a business deciding they are going to do that [address trafficking in their supply chain], the process of doing it is as important as them doing it. Businesses that do it say ‘it really changed the way that we thought about our business when we started this process’.
So we aren’t there as consultants to do it for businesses. We are there as consultants that help raise awareness; who identify for them any particular hotspots they might want to work on; to direct them to the best practice in this way of operating; and how they take the first few steps to move forward.
How industries respond to trafficking:
Every industry area is a little bit different. We have been working very extensively, for example, with the fashion industry. From three years ago before Rana Plaza collapsed [where 1133 people were killed and over 2500 were injured when the factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh] it was an industry that a majority of Australian labels and retailers only knew who their buyer was. They didn’t even know where their buyer was procuring but now we are in a better situation with the Australian fashion industry.
We hold an event called the Australian Fashion Forum twice a year. We have had over 50 of the big players attend but we’ve also had some small players who said that they want to take the issue seriously. What’s exciting is when an industry decides they are going to move as a whole. That can be from just saying ‘we want to raise awareness amongst our staff on their own purchasing practices’ through to ‘we want to identify what the procurement hotspots are in our supply chain and we want to put processes around and do something about it’.
One of the businesses that we work with is Haigh’s Chocolates. We initially contacted Haigh’s and they reluctantly had a meeting with us and it was a very folded-arms-around-the-boardroom-table type conversation of ‘what are you going to do to us now?’. We never lodged a campaign about Haigh’s but gradually a couple of people in the business said that initial meeting gave them the confidence to then say in the staff meeting: ‘Maybe this isn’t a marketing issue, maybe it’s actually the kind of business we want to be issue.’
They were able to say: ‘I don’t actually want to be in a business like that. I don’t feel good about earning my income from a business that might be enslaving children.’ So over a two-year period it went from arms-folded-around-the-boardroom-table to them asking, ‘When are you coming to Adelaide next? We want to tell you what we have done’.
I think Haigh’s would say the whole process helped them to be a better business. When they took seriously the conditions in which the chocolate was being harvested, it actually changed – I mean they are a really caring organisation and they have a lot of good practices in place – but they said that it wasn’t until they had that visibility across their whole supply chain that it actually infiltrated the whole culture and heart of who they were as a business.
How consumers can help drive change:
One of the things you can do is decide that there are areas of your life where you are going to take this seriously. We often say to people to start with chocolate. So start by consuming chocolate that not only tastes good but is good for the people who produced it. Get to know your chocolate. Ask supermarkets what sort of chocolate they are stocking and why. Chocolate is also reasonably easy because it is a simple supply chain. In the supply chain certification by eitherRainforest Alliance, Utz Certifed or Fairtrade means that steps are being taken to end human trafficking. So start with something really straightforward and easy and you can find huge numbers or resources for that on our website [like this one].
Then move onto something else – the clothes that you wear. There is a lot of readily accessible material about clothes. So you can go to one of our partner’s websites, like Behind the Barcode, where you can find reports on fashion and electronics, so you can go down that path. It’s a matter of informing yourself and starting to say ‘these choices are important’. Once you have made them in one area it is easier to make them in other areas.