Clearly, to help abused workers, and to support the businesses out there that are trying to do good, the anti-trafficking and responsible sourcing communities have to change their ideas about what slavery and trafficking look like, and start making decisions based on information and data provided by workers in a voluntary, safe way.
The good news is that this is all possible in 2018: The majority of migrant workers in Southeast Asia have smartphones, even those in forced labor situations, and if they know of an organization like Issara Institute that will help them, they will call or message at a time and place that is safe for them.
We can now rely on workers’ voices to identify where trafficking is taking place across geographically far-flung supply chains — something that was impossible just five years ago. And for the operators of those chains, locating the problem is the first step to fixing it.
Hopefully, more American brands and retailers will see that the future of responsible sourcing is now here, and it’s already possible for them to give their consumers the peace of mind that their goods are not tainted by slavery.
Commentary by Dr. Lisa Rende Taylor, founder and executive director of the Issara Institute, an Asia-headquartered, U.S. non-profit organization tackling issues of human trafficking and forced labor through technology, empowered worker voice, and multi-stakeholder collaboration. After a two-decade anti-trafficking career, first as an academic then later in the U.S. State Department and United Nations, Dr. Rende Taylor left the UN in 2013 to found a more data-driven, worker-centered, collaborative approach to reducing forced labor, aiming to transform and evolve how corporate responsible sourcing is done — and through this, make a real, positive difference in the lives of millions of vulnerable workers.
WATCH: “Oceans of Crime” premieres in the United States on Saturday, February 17, at 8 p.m. ET/PT. It premieres in Asia starting Monday, February 19 at 1 p.m. SIN.