Six Compelling Reasons Why Fighting Human Trafficking Is a Fit for Atlanta Businesses

Posted on February 22, 2016

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It’s a valid question and a question being asked by business professionals throughout Atlanta. “Is fighting human trafficking a fit for business?”

Before answering this question, pause to consider the issue.Sun City

In its most sanitized description, it is Human Trafficking, (trafficking). All of the things that make Atlanta great also make us a prime target of those who wish to exploit our children in the most degrading fashion. Our penchant for sports, our world’s busiest airport, our growing economy, our leading technology, our interstate corridors, our booming convention and hospitality industries and our diverse community make us fertile ground for unspeakable human behavior. As a result the FBI has named Atlanta as one of the top U.S. cities for trafficking.

Nearly 290 million dollars changes hands every year in our city due to this illegal activity. The average age of those forced into human trafficking is 11 – 14 years of age. Last year over 300 children in Georgia were rescued with half of those coming from Atlanta.  Sadly, this is barely a dent as many more remain enslaved.

The issue pulls at the heart-strings and stirs up anger. Thankfully, concerned citizens, legislators, key leaders in the justice system, civic societies, religious groups and nonprofit organizations have the joined the battle. Slower, however, to the front lines are corporate leaders. This is about to change in Atlanta and here are a few reasons why corporate leaders are increasingly joining the fight.

  1. Corporate Leaders know the value of protecting the employer brand. Whether it’s a C-Suite leader caught in a sting or someone in your IT department being charged with illegal activity using corporate technology, the public can turn on your brand. If you doubt this, just ask Subway. As Catherine Royle Manney of BEST writes, “As these cases are being prosecuted, information on people buying sex, and those promoting sexual exploitation, is becoming publicly available, posing a serious reputational risk to employers.” (See more at Sex-buyers are Putting Employers’ Reputations at Risk.)
  2. Social Responsibility matters in retaining and attracting the best talent. Millennials are best known for having a social consciousness and desiring to affiliate with employers who share their concern for humanity and the environment. Filipe Santos wrote for Forbes, “Up-and-coming leaders today are looking for more than a good salary – they’re searching for meaning in their day-to-day work and they tie their personal values more closely to their career than previous generations.” Yet, it’s not just the millennials. Many baby boomers find themselves in a stage of life where they want to have an impact while remaining in the workforce. HR leaders are in the battle for the best talent and they must understand the role of an effective social responsibility program in attracting and retaining top talent.
  3. Business leaders care. The humans are more than resources. Whether they be our employees or a member of our fellow humanity, many leaders care. The plight of these young girls and boys and young women caught in trafficking horrifies these leaders. For these, bottom lines and stakeholder value matter, but so do the people in their communities. They have an intrinsic yearning to relieve the suffering of those enslaved in this hideous activity.
  4. Corporate leaders can implement employee conduct policies that reduce the illegal activity of employees and prevents inadvertent support of trafficking. Studies have shown there is an indisputable link between adult entertainment and Trafficking. Every time a business expense reimbursement is provided for adult entertainment that business is indirectly supporting an environment that exploits young girls and trafficking. Therefore, one simple policy added to the Employee Handbook can have a tremendous impact. It is for this reason more corporations are implementing policies prohibiting employees from visiting adult entertainment establishments while working or while representing the company. These companies refuse to reimburse for adult entertainment expenses.
  5. Corporations and business can be the catalyst for educating and training employees about trafficking. Employees are at the center of this issue. Employees are they “buyers” paying for illegal sexual liaisons. Employees make up the jury pools where johns, pimps and pedophiles are being brought to court. Employees are engaged in volunteer activities that protect our children. Employees are contacting legislators and voting on bills related to protecting basic human rights. Many employees work in industries, such as healthcare and hospitality, where they can be the eyes and ears of law enforcement, alerting local authorities to suspected trafficking. Because of the role of employees, employers often hold a key to increasing awareness and providing solutions that are found in no other institutions.
  6. Corporations and businesses can provide an alternative means of employment for survivors of trafficking and prostitution by offering apprenticeships, job training and employment. One of the most exciting developments in this area takes place here in Atlanta as Wellspring Living provides trafficking survivors with the opportunity to receive GED training, life skills coaching, health and fitness classes and therapy. Furthermore, in a partnership with Randstad they are also able to provide survivors of human trafficking and prostitution with apprenticeships and permanent work opportunities. If the young women survive the years of being trafficked (and many don’t!) they often resort to the only means of making a living they know—prostitution. They will tell you, “Don’t take away our means of supporting ourselves unless you can give us another option.” Employers can provide those options through meaningful employment.

These are just six reasons why human trafficking matters to business.  Can you add more? If so, feel to share them in the comment section below.

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