We think of slavery as a horrible thing in America’s past. Many of us learned about slavery in our junior high school history class, but were left believing it was over and done. As a newcomer to our nation’s capitol this month, I was immediately introduced to a whole new world, focused on human rights and corporate social responsibility. It was quite a shock to learn of the slavery that still exists in our modern world. Last year, right down the road (I can’t believe I’m that close!) President Barack Obama proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. So I guess I came to Washington, D.C. at an exciting time – I get to be a part of this, and so do you!
Those who know that “human trafficking” still exists often assume that it happens only in the sex industry, but what we don’t realize, at least I didn’t, is that there are a plethora of industries that use the labor of trafficked humans. The list is shockingly long.
It makes you wonder, when thinking about modern slavery, where is our Harriet Beecher Stowe? And could one person acting alone today even begin to scratch the surface of an issue like she did in the 1860s? The answer is no. It will take the effort of every consumer to abolish slavery within all supply chains, and it won’t be as “quick” and “easy” as the American Civil War, if you can believe that. There is no one type of company that is the southern plantation owner, and there is no one type of person as the black slave. Human trafficking and slavery today is everywhere and in everything… but it doesn’t have to be.
We might not know, or want to know, that the things we love the most have negative impacts on other humans around the globe, and even here in America. Our favorite foods at the grocery store, name brand clothing at the mall, and yes, even chocolate. But the sad truth is that many businesses have supply chains infected with human trafficking.
Ready for some good news? This article by the UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, explains how ending human trafficking is “not only a moral issue, but a win-win situation for businesses all round.” It just makes sense for corporations to have socially responsible practices because as consumers, we don’t want our products coming from the hands of slaves. And some businesses are already taking steps to curb human trafficking. For examples, see this Huffington Post article and this policy from Cisco [editor's note: perhaps an improvement from earlier human rights concerns, including in China?].
In the week I’ve been working with p.h. balanced films, I’ve already learned that this is what we are all about: recognizing that consumers can improve conditions for the fellow humans that make our products around the world. We aim to influence consumers, meaning everyone, through documentary film. Nowadays, nearly everyone is plugged into media, which makes it a perfect way to help identify and stop bad human rights practices and encourage good ones. U. Roberto Romano, directory of documentary film “The Dark Side of Chocolate” agrees. Check out this CNBC video where he discusses some of the issues facing consumers.
Ready for more good news? We can already see the beginnings of change with important policies such as The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 (SB 657) and organizations like the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), who are addressing problems in specific supply chains. We at p.h. balanced films will be using the power of documentary film and social media to bring you reliable information about problems in supply chains and how to join the movement to be part of their solution.
Knowing how the products I buy affects other humans has definitely changed the way I look at consumerism, and being especially aware during this important month is a great way to start the new year. During the month of Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention, take action and stay informed. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center and the Not For Sale Campaign are great places to find out more on how we, as consumers, can help recognize and prevent slavery.
Stay tuned to our YouTube channel and Facebook page for more information. And follow p.h. balanced films on Twitter where you can use the hashtags #NSHTPM, #HumanTrafficking and #CSR to get in on the conversation.