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As you read this, upwards of 40 million people worldwide are toiling in forced labor, many at companies most of us do business with in some way. Frontrunners are working hard to make changes, and not just because January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

During a roundtable at SAP’s Hudson Yards offices in New York this week, four industry leaders advised how companies can step up in a bigger way in 2018.

How Companies Can Stop Human Trafficking in 2018: Be Vulnerable, Act Now

SAP Ariba Human Trafficking Awareness roundtable (l to r): Padmini Ranganathan, vice president of Products and Innovation at SAP Ariba; James Edward Johnson, director of Supply Chain Risk Management and Analytics at Nielsen; Kirsten Allegri Williams, vice president of Marketing at SAP Ariba; Justin Dillion, founder and CEO of Made In A Free World; Lise Kingo, CEO and executive director, United Nations Global Compact. Image via SAP

Take a Fresh Look and Action

When the United Nations Global Compact adopted 17 sustainable development goals for its 2030 agenda two years ago, the organization’s CEO and Executive Director, Lise Kingo, said enabling decent work was a major priority. It’s become apparent that eliminating modern slavery, forced labor and non-compliance with human rights shines a spotlight on every company’s supply chain.

“Close to half of world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day. Their right to organize as laborers is being challenged. Many of these employees are working in the supply chains of multi-national companies,” said Kingo. “This is the perfect moment for companies to set a new, fresh agenda with their suppliers. Think about the new great tools out there that can help you manage suppliers in new way that wasn’t possible before.”

Focus on the Power You Have

Long-time freedom advocate Justin Dillion, Founder and CEO of Made In A Free World, said with technology advances like his FRDM fintech tool that companies use to find out how many slaves are in their supplier chain, plus the willingness to change, organizations can solve these problems.

“I define purpose as using your power to make someone else’s life better,” said Dillion. “When companies and individuals focus on power, we’re usually focusing on how little we have. I would challenge us to look at the power we do have, and ways to leverage our own power to help somebody else.”

Partner for a Business and Higher Purpose

Kirsten Allegri Williams, vice president of Marketing at SAP Ariba, saw the challenges of slavery, poverty, and discrimination as opportunities for companies to not only do well, but also do good by forming a community.

“The goal of every business is to do well, but the ultimate leadership challenge is actually improving people’s lives,” said Williams. “Now is the time for companies to commit to making an impact by understanding the available solutions, and using their purchasing power to drive ethical standards across their supply chain as part of their core business to generate a profit.”

Be Vulnerable

James Edward Johnson, director of Supply Chain Risk Management and Analytics at Nielsen, advised starting with tier one suppliers and enforcing a code of conduct.

“It’s okay to be vulnerable. Fearing a problem doesn’t make it go away, and closing your eyes to a problem doesn’t make you any less responsible for helping solve that problem,” said Johnson. “If you know the number of slaves in your supply chain it’s scary, but if you have the tools to assess risk and identify where you’re best positioned to act on a real problem, that shows preparedness and a willingness to have an impact on the world, and that’s going to look good.”

SAP Ariba is helping make 2018 a year of action to get forced labor down to zero. One is still too many.

Trust the Business Network

According to Padmini Ranganathan, vice president of Products and Innovation at SAP Ariba, AI and machine learning can reveal actionable facts for procurement professionals. She shared a demo showing how the SAP Ariba Network combined data from the FRDM tool geo-mapped to a company’s supply chain data to find risk hot spots.

“We believe people are inherently good, and it’s our job as technologists to enable that goodness. We trust the network effect, helping businesses showcase their profiles and capabilities,” said Ranganathan. “Reward the transparency of these companies by actively seeking out and doing business with those that are doing good. Use tools to open the eyes of companies that aren’t aware they have slavery in their supply chains, and help them change. Let’s make 2018 a year of action, and get forced labor down to zero. One is still too many.”

Follow me: @smgaler
Top image via Shutterstock

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