Combating the $150 Billion Problem – What Compliance Can Do About Human Trafficking

This is a guest post written by Ramsey Kazem, East Coast Vice President of Spark Compliance Consulting.

Last month, the City of Atlanta hosted Super Bowl LIII.  A sporting event of this magnitude brings a lot of energy and excitement to the host city.  This year was no exception.  In the days leading up to the “big game”, the City of Atlanta showcased spectacular parties and special events, a diverse range of music concerts, and countless celebrity sightings.  While there was much to celebrate, this event also brought with it a darker side and highlighted an issue that does not receive the attention it deserves:  Human Trafficking

Just days before the Superbowl, authorities announced that 33 people were arrested in Atlanta on sex trafficking charges.  This roundup was the result of a cooperative effort between the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and local law enforcement.  The details of the arrests are undisclosed as the investigations are ongoing, but it has been reported that at least four victims have been rescued as a result of the effort.

Sadly, this issue is not limited to major sporting events where big-spending tourists from across the globe gather in one location.  Indeed, sex trafficking, human trafficking and forced labor (collectively referred to as “human trafficking”) are far more prevalent than many realize.  Human trafficking extends to all corners of the world –even to developed nations – and targets men, women, and children.  This global scourge, commonly referred to as Modern Slavery, generates $150 billion a year in illegal profits making it the third largest criminal industry behind drugs and arms trafficking

The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally.  One in four victims are children, and more than 16 million people are exploited in the private sector throughout a wide range of industries.  While governments around the world are beginning to address this issue with increased urgency, commercial enterprises can play an important role in combatting this evil.  That is, by ensuring their business activities are not indirectly supporting, encouraging or financing Modern Slavery, companies can substantially diminish the market for this illegal and immoral practice. 

Before discussing the proactive steps to mitigate the risk of human trafficking in a company’s business activities, it is important to first understand what it is and in which industries it is most prevalent. 

What is Human Trafficking?  While the legal definitions of human trafficking tend to be broadly worded to cast as wide a net as is practicable, at its core human trafficking has three primary elements: (1) the transporting of people, (2) by illegal means, and (3) for a specific purpose.  For example, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, a United States Federal Law, defines each part of the formula as follows: 

  • Transporting:  the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person

  • Illegal means:  use of force, fraud, or coercion

  • Specific purpose:  involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, slavery or commercial sex acts. 

Other laws and regulations addressing this issue take a similar approach to define this term. 

No discussion on the definition of human trafficking is complete without dispelling the common myth that human trafficking only involves the transporting of people for commercial sex.  This is simply not the case as forced labor is a large part of this illegal industry.  In fact, by some estimates, there are more instances of labor trafficking than sex trafficking….