Drawing a More Humane Bottom Line for Businesses
Advocacy After nearly a decade of working closely with the modern anti-slavery movement, it’s evident that a different business model is required to stop human trafficking.
Consider slavery today: It has ensnared more than 30 million people and generates $150 billion annually for traffickers. Meanwhile, nonprofits and government agencies fighting this crime operate with about $150 million at their disposal.
To change these unfavorable odds, the business sector must get engaged. We need the same entrepreneurial talent, capital and technology that’s catalyzed economic growth and innovation in the technology industry to gravitate toward combating one of the world’s greatest social crises.
"...consumers don’t want to be purchasing another person’s misery."
According to the U.S. Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons report, no consumer can avoid purchasing products made by slave labor. With that frame, it is instructive to look at business models that embed social responsibility into the very DNA of a company to combat forced labor.
A business’ purchase order should be seen as an act of social impact. Companies have a choice: will they solely be driven by a short-term financial bottom-line view that exposes them to the risk of forced labor, or will they demand ethical treatment of the people producing their product? A purchase order provides the leverage needed to demand the latter reality.
For example, some leading textiles brands now choose to exclusively source their products from small-holder cotton farmers in at-risk regions of India, utilizing fair trade practices. This unique approach has propelled these companies to become some of the largest and fastest-growing textile brands in the world, proving that consumers don’t want to be purchasing another person’s misery.
While many established companies search for social causes to support, some companies are actually being founded by charitable organizations; developing a for-profit company can allow non-profits to be self-sustaining in their missions.
It is high time to reinvent philanthropy, as well as business. With this hybrid approach in mind, entrepreneurs must embed their desired social and environmental impact into the companies they build.