Categories for Corporate Responsibility

New York City Should Send a Message to Wendy’s, Which Refuses to Protect Its Farmworkers

September 25, 2021

When the country’s largest fast food companies were pressured to step up to combat sexual violence, forced labor, and other human rights abuses in their supply chain, they all eventually agreed — except one.

After years of pressure, Wendy’s still refuses to follow its peers and join the Fair Food Program to protect farmworkers and uphold their human rights. But the movement to get Wendy’s to take this basic step is gaining momentum. It’s time for the New York City Council to pass a resolution introduced over a year ago calling on Wendy’s to join the program as a necessary support for farmworkers’ lives.

The City Council resolution is part of a campaign that has included years of organizing and work by people across New York and around the country — farmworkers, consumers, activists, students, religious leaders — standing against the power imbalance between major corporations and farmworkers and the abuses that can result. The campaign has included a consumer boycott, and protests including a five-day hunger strike and march in Manhattan.

Even investors are getting on board: in April, a group representing $1 trillion in assets under management, including the Office of the New York City Comptroller, released a letter amplifying the campaign’s demands and drawing attention to the widely-publicized failures to protect worker safety throughout Wendy’s supply chain. Convened by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, these investors emphasized the dire conditions farmworkers have faced nationwide during the global pandemic, and the Fair Food Program’s unique binding and enforceable COVID-19 safety protocols on farms within the Program, directly challenging the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Brown and Black essential workers.

Activists and investors alike can see that the conditions faced by agricultural workers do not reflect our values. Many workers face poverty, sexual harassment, and forced labor. Around the time the resolution was introduced to the City Council, the Council’s Women’s Caucus outlined its support, calling particular attention to the ways that farmworkers face gender-based violence. Caucus members described how sexual violence “has been a scourge in U.S. agriculture for decades with a staggering 80 percent of women farmworkers reporting having experienced sexual harassment and assault on the job.”

Both the investors’ and the Women’s Caucus letters are addressed to Nelson Peltz, who is both the Wendy’s Board Chairman and Chairman of Trian Partners, a hedge fund that is Wendy’s largest institutional shareholder and is based in New York City. A resolution from the City Council is essential in order to send a strong, united message to the corporate entity that holds the key to enacting this necessary change.

Read the full story by Ruth Messinger on Gotham Gazette.

Marriott International Launches Enhanced Human Trafficking Awareness Training

August 26, 2021

BETHESDA, Md., July 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Marriott International today announced that on July 30th, World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the company will launch an updated version of its human trafficking awareness training – the next step in Marriott’s goal to train all of its on-property associates to recognize and respond to potential indicators of human trafficking at hotels by 2025.

The world has changed significantly in the five years since the company launched the initial training. COVID-19 has ushered in more contactless and mobile hotel experiences, which can make it more difficult to spot potential indicators of trafficking. The new training builds upon the original training’s foundation by featuring scenario-based modules, a mobile-friendly design, and increased guidance on how to respond to potential situations of human trafficking – critical enhancements based on hotel-level feedback to help associates turn awareness into action and continue the fight against the multinational crime. Additionally, the new training was developed in collaboration with survivors of human trafficking, ensuring the training is victim-centered and the resources are survivor-informed.

“As an industry that cares deeply about human rights and the horrible crime of human trafficking, we have a real responsibility to address this issue in a meaningful way,” said Anthony Capuano, Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International. “The updated training empowers a global workforce that stands ready to recognize and respond to human trafficking and allows our company to live up to our core values.”

Through a collaboration with ECPAT-USA and with input from Polaris, two leading non-profits that specialize in combatting human trafficking, Marriott launched its original human trafficking awareness training in 2016 and made it mandatory for all on-property staff in both managed and franchised properties globally in January 2017. So far, the training has been delivered to more than 850,000 associates, which has helped identify instances of human trafficking, protect associates and guests, and support victims and survivors.

As the company did with its original training, Marriott plans to donate this training and work with ECPAT-USA and the American Hotel and Lodging Association Foundation to make it widely available in early 2022 to help educate the entire hospitality industry.

Read the full press release on Marriott International News Center.

What The Travel Industry Is Doing To Prevent Human Trafficking — And How You Can Help

June 15, 2021

Human trafficking may not be something you think about happening next door in your luxury hotel or on a popular commercial airline.

Although human trafficking — defined as the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain commercial sex acts or labor — can take place anywhere, ECPAT International (a global network of organizations that works to end the trafficking of children) says the travel industry is on the front lines.

The International Labour Association estimated there were 24.9 million people in forced labor and 15.4 million in forced marriage in 2016 around the globe. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) released data that revealed that hotels and motels were the fourth-most common locations for sex trafficking in 2019.

Forty travel organizations have currently agreed to a code of conduct designed to protect children from sexual exploitation in the travel and tourism industries. Members have to agree to implement six steps, including training employees, providing information to travelers and annually reporting their efforts.

The federal government passed legislation in 2016 that mandated United States-based airlines train flight attendants to spot suspected instances of human trafficking, and legislation was brought to Congress in 2018 that would require hotels and airlines to teach employees how to recognize signs of trafficking to be eligible to win government contracts.

Fortunately, some travel companies aren’t waiting for the government to step up. Here are a few ways seven top brands are working to stop human trafficking — and how you can get involved, too.

Read the full story by Jordi Lippe-McGraw on The Points Guy.

Victim Of Facebook-Facilitated Child Exploitation To Speak At Facebook Annual Meeting

June 3, 2021
Survivor Comments to Support Resolution Backed by 43% of Non-Management Shares in 2020; Chief Concerns:  Lack of Action to Curb Child Abuse and Exploitation Fueled by Facebook, the “Online Hub” of Child Predators
NEW YORK – May 24, 2021 – When Facebook management and shareholders consider proxy resolutions at the online giant’s annual meeting on Wednesday (March 26, 2021), they will hear from Sarah Cooper, who was approached as a teenager through Facebook Messenger, met a predator in Boston and New York City, and was sold into sex slavery.
Ms. Cooper will be speaking in favor of Proposal 6 at the Facebook annual meeting, which calls on Facebook to conduct a study of its central role in online child abuse and  “assessing the risk of increased sexual exploitation of children as the Company develops and offers additional privacy tools such as end-to-end encryption.”  The resolution was filed by Proxy Impact, Lisette Cooper, the Maryknoll Sisters, the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell, NJ, and the Stardust Fund.
In 2020, the same resolution attracted the support of 43 percent of non-management shares of the company that is tightly controlled by Mark Zuckerberg.
How bad is the child abuse and exploitation problem at Facebook? And how much worse could it get?
  • Reports of child sexual exploitation in 2020 rose 28 percent from 2019 levels.  Last year, there were a total of 21.7 million reports, involving more than 65.4 million images, videos and other files containing suspected child sexual abuse materials (CSAM).  Facebook is the United States’ #1 hub of reported child sexual abuse material, accounting for an estimated 94 percent of the total.
In her statement to Facebook shareholders, Sarah Cooper, a survivor of child sexual abuse on Facebook, plans to say this: “As a teenager social media was my outlet. I used Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger. At one point I accepted a friend request from a stranger on Facebook. We communicated mostly through Messenger. At first he was nice and friendly trying to learn more about me and my interests. I was so young and I was flattered by his seemingly undivided attention. He actively discouraged me from communicating with anyone besides him.  At the time I did not recognize this as grooming behavior. I willingly exchanged sexually explicit photos with him at his request, because at the time, being accepted by him, by someone,  was important to me. At some point our relationship advanced to talking on the phone and eventually meeting in person.”  
Cooper continued: “I met him in Boston and eventually went with him to NY where I was trapped in a motel room that was guarded by armed men. I was sold into sex slavery. When I asked where all the money was going or begged to leave, they gave me alcohol and drugs. I was in a daze but eventually was able to communicate with a friend back in MA who rescued me. I share this in hopes that my story doesn’t become one that you hear from a friend, sister, or mother because no child deserves to be victimized.”
Lisette Cooper, vice-chair, Fiduciary Trust International, former CEO, Athena Capital Advisors, and the mother of Sarah Cooper, said:“My family has lived through tragedy that no child and no family should have to suffer. The fact that Facebook is facilitating these abuses is bad enough, but to go even farther and make things worse through end-to-end encryption is just totally unacceptable.  As parents, this issue of child sexual abuse online, resonates for many of us and we feel it’s time to raise our voices for change, to make the world a safer place for children, while also making the companies we invest in stronger for the future.  Facebook has a responsibility to ensure the safety of the environment that our kids are hanging out in on their social media platforms — ensuring that it’s a safe neighborhood.” 
Michael Passoff, founder and CEO, Proxy Impact, a shareholder advocacy and proxy voting service, said:  “Shareholders are legitimately concerned that Facebook’s role as a facilitator of child abuse and exploitation will spiral even further out of control if it adopts end-to-end encryption without first stopping predators who prey on children.  Not only is it the right thing to do, but it is in the best interests of the company which may otherwise face legislative, regulatory, legal, advertising and consumer backlashes.” 
ABOUT PROXY IMPACT 
Proxy Impact provides shareholder engagement and proxy voting services that promote sustainable and responsible business practices. www.proxyimpact.com
MEDIA CONTACT  
Alex Frank, (703) 276-3264 or afrank@hastingsgroup.com.

Fighting Human Trafficking In Maine With Coffee

May 30, 2021

MAINE, Maine — Federal authorities say Maine is considered a “source” state for human traffickers from Boston and New York, who prey on women and children struggling with poverty, family turmoil, sexual abuse, or drug addiction.

An estimated 200 to 300 people are trafficked for sex every year, according to a study commissioned for the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

A Windham man hopes to empower consumers to help fight human trafficking in our state by tapping into the country’s multi-billion-dollar ground coffee market.

As a father of two, Anthony McKeown will never forget how he felt when he saw images of child victims of human trafficking.

“It just gnawed at me, it just gnawed at me,” McKeown said.

According to the U.S. State Department, more than half of criminal human trafficking involves children and a very very small percentage of these children are rescued.

Read the full story by Vivien Leigh on News Center Maine.

Why Do We Let Corporations Profit From Rape Videos?

April 29, 2021

This article contains descriptions of sexual assaults.

This isn’t about pornography, but about rape and sexual abuse.

“I’ve no problem with consensual adults making porn,” says a Canadian student. “Who cares?”

The problem is that many people in pornographic videos weren’t consenting adults. Like her.

Just after she turned 14, a man enticed her to engage in sexual play over Skype. He secretly recorded her. A clip, along with her full name, ended up on XVideos, the world’s most-visited pornography site. Google searches helped direct people to this illegal footage of child sexual abuse.

In a video above this column, she recounts how she begged XVideos to remove the clip. Instead, she says, the website hosted two more copies, so hundreds of thousands of people could leer at this most mortifying moment of her life, preserved forever as if in amber.

That happens all over the world: Women and girls, and men and boys, are sexually assaulted or secretly filmed, and then video is posted on a major website like XVideos that draws traffic through search engines. While the initial video assault may be brief, the attack on dignity becomes interminable.

“The shame I felt was overwhelming,” the Canadian student says.

I wrote in December about Pornhub, a Montreal-based website that pioneered access to free porn uploaded by anyone — so-called tube sites that are like YouTube for nudity and sex. Since that article, credit card companies have stopped working with Pornhub, the site has removed more than nine million videos, and the Canadian and United States governments have been cracking down on the company’s practices.

But as I noted at the time, the exploitation is rooted not in a single company but in an industry that operates with impunity, and punishing one corporation may simply benefit its rivals. That’s happening here. When Pornhub deleted videos, millions of outraged customers fled to its nemesis, XVideos, which has even fewer scruples.

Pierre Woodman, a veteran European pornographer, told me that while I may have damaged Pornhub financially, for XVideos “you are Santa Claus.”

That’s not a comfortable feeling, and it’s why we need to work to rein in an entire rogue industry — and for now, the behemoth is XVideos, bolstered by Google and other search engines.

“We are the biggest adult tube in the industry, with an average of two billion daily impressions worldwide,” boasts XVideos, which SimilarWeb ranks as the seventh-most-visited website in the world. Two slots behind is a sister website with almost exactly the same content, XNXX.com. Each gets more visitors than Yahoo, Amazon or Netflix.

XVideos and XNXX appear to be owned by mysterious French twins and based in a nondescript office building in Prague not far from Wenceslas Square. This building is the hub of a porn empire that gets six billion impressions a day and inflicts anguish all around the world — which raises a question:

Why do we let companies get away with this?

Read the full story by Nicholas Kristof on The New York Times.

Airport’s New Human Trafficking Detection Program

March 28, 2021
Every year traffickers use trains, buses, planes and ships to transport thousands of victims, hiding them in plain sight while traveling to destinations around the world. As the eyes and ears in airports and global transportation systems, airport employees are uniquely positioned to help combat the issue of human trafficking.
January was National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and in recognition of that, the Sacramento County Department of Airports (SCDA) partnered with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop a new Human Trafficking Awareness and Reporting training program.
Together with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Transportation, the Blue Campaign, a division within the DHS Office of Partnership and Engagement, created the Blue Lightning Initiative (BLI).
The BLI program is designed to provide airport employees with the tools needed to take advantage of their unique position and ability to identify potential human trafficking victims and notify federal authorities.
In 2018, then California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2034. This bill requires transit agencies like bus and light rail stations to provide human trafficking training to employees who may interact with traffickers and/or their victims.
Although the bill does not apply to airport agencies, SCDA has decided to move forward and join this partnership to provide training to all of its employees.
Read the full story by Samantha Mott on Saccounty News.

Swiss to Vote on Tougher Responsibility Proposal for Companies

January 21, 2021

For several months, orange flags printed with “Yes!” have hung from balconies across Switzerland, encouraging the public to vote Sunday in favor of an initiative to make Swiss companies liable for human rights violations and environmental damage committed by their subsidiaries abroad.

The proposal, which has been promoted by a coalition of over 130 civil society organizations, has been opposed both by businesses and the government, which say it goes too far and could hurt Swiss companies as they struggle with a slowdown linked to the coronavirus.

The initiative, if approved, would require companies to ensure that their subsidiaries and supply chains comply with U.N. human rights guidelines and a range of international environmental standards. They would also be required to publicly report on potential risks, like suppliers being unable to verify the safety of factory buildings or the use of child labor, and what measures are being taken to address them.

The initiative would make companies based in Switzerland liable for violations that happen at entities and subsidiaries they control abroad, enabling victims to bring their cases before Swiss courts.

The law, which the latest newspaper polls suggest voters will approve, could have implications for the large number of multinational companies that have their global headquarters in Switzerland.

To read the full story by Noele Illien on The New York Times:Click Here

Nestlé & Cargill v. Doe Series: Corporate Liability, Child Slavery, and the Chocolate Industry – A Preview of the Case

December 31, 2020

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a Just Security series on the consolidated cases of Nestlé USA, Inc. v. Doe I and Cargill Inc. v. Doe I, which was argued before the Supreme Court on Dec. 1. The introduction to the series and all other articles can be found here.]

The world’s chocolate supply is undergirded by rampant practices of child labor under extremely hazardous conditions and, in some cases, slavery. According to the U.S. Bureau of International Labor Affairs, cocoa plantations in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana combine to produce 60 percent of the world’s cocoa. These plantations rely heavily on the labor of 2 million children working in hazardous conditions. Thousands of these child laborers are trafficked or forced into the work and may not be compensated for their labor, conditions amounting to slavery.

The international community has struggled to address this issue for years. In 2001, Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and then-Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) drafted legislation to require a “slave free” label for chocolate products sold in the United States. The chocolate industry lobbied successfully to defeat the proposal and instead negotiated the Harkin-Engel Protocol. This international agreement was signed by the Chocolate Manufacturers Association; the World Cocoa Foundation;  Engel and Harkin, and then-Senator Herbert Kohl (D-WI); an ambassador from Côte d’Ivoire; representatives of various NGOs; and leaders of eight major chocolate corporations, including Nestlé (at pages 3-9, 16). It sought to compel the chocolate industry to eliminate the worst forms of child labor and forced labor as defined by International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions 29 and 182. (The latter defines the “worst forms of child labor” as subjecting children to all forms of slavery and practices similar to slavery, trafficking, prostitution, pornography, the production and trafficking of illicit substances, and work that will harm their health, safety, or morals, which includes hazardous forms of agricultural work.) However, the industry failed repeatedly to meet the benchmarks introduced by the Protocol, in part because it relied on self-regulation.

In 2010, responding to the inefficacy of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, representatives of the United States, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire released a Framework of Action to Support Implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol. This public declaration committed the signatories to reduce child labor in the Ghanaian and Ivorian cocoa industries by 70 percent by 2020 and pledged $10 million from the U.S. Department of Labor and $7 million from the cocoa industry to achieve that goal. In support of the framework, the ILO entered into a partnership with eight companies in the chocolate and cocoa industry, including Nestlé and Cargill, to contribute $2 million toward the eradication of child slavery.

Despite these efforts, the problem is only worsening. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2020 report identified a 14 percent increase in the prevalence of child labor in Ghanaian and Ivorian agrarian households from 2009 to 2019. This leap reflects the simple fact that business is booming: the report found that cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana increased by over 60 percent over the same period. In light of these well-documented abuses and the lack of progress by the industry to eradicate child labor, victims have sought redress against U.S. corporations for their complicity in these human rights violations, culminating in the Nestlé/Cargill litigation.

To read the full story by Chris Moxley on Just Security: Click Here

Rape, Abuses in Palm Oil Fields Linked to Top Beauty Brands

December 11, 2020

SUMATRA, Indonesia (AP) — With his hand clamped tightly over her mouth, she could not scream, the 16-year-old girl recalls – and no one was around to hear her anyway. She describes how her boss raped her amid the tall trees on an Indonesian palm oil plantation that feeds into some of the world’s best-known cosmetic brands. He then put an ax to her throat and warned her: Do not tell.

At another plantation, a woman named Ola complains of fevers, coughing and nose bleeds after years of spraying dangerous pesticides with no protective gear. Making just $2 a day, with no health benefits, she can’t afford to see a doctor.

Hundreds of miles away, Ita, a young wife, mourns the two babies she lost in the third trimester. She regularly lugged loads several times her weight throughout both pregnancies, fearing she would be fired if she did not.

These are the invisible women of the palm oil industry, among the millions of daughters, mothers and grandmothers who toil on vast plantations across Indonesia and neighboring Malaysia, which together produce 85 percent of the world’s most versatile vegetable oil.

Palm oil is found in everything from potato chips and pills to pet food, and also ends up in the supply chains of some of the biggest names in the $530 billion beauty business, including L’Oréal, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Avon and Johnson & Johnson, helping women around the world feel pampered and beautiful.

To read the full story by Margie Mason and Robin Mcdowell on APNews: Click Here