On human rights day, investors affirm responsibility of business to safeguard human rights in global supply chains

Dec 10th 2013

Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility announce month-long initiative during January, Human Trafficking Awareness month, to counter trafficking and slavery in high-risk sectors.

NEW YORK, NY///December 10, 2013/In commemoration of Human Rights Day 2013, today members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of faith-based and socially responsible investors, announced that they would begin a month-long campaign in January to urge fifteen companies in the food-agricultural and hospitality sectors to implement policies that will prevent human rights abuses in their global supply chains.

The food-ag companies identified in the initiative are ADM, ConAgra, Costco, Darden Restaurants, Kroger, Mondelez Int’l, Target, Walmart and the hospitality companies are Choice, Delta, Hyatt, Starwood, US Airways, Wyndham, and Southwest.

The investors recently published a Statement of Principles and Recommended Practices for Confronting Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery which forms the basis of all their dialogues with companies on human rights issues. Using International Human Rights Day as a platform to highlight potential abuses in global supply chains, the initiative will focus on a subset of companies in the food-ag and hospitality sectors and encourage the implementation of specific human rights policies.  Both sectors are deemed at risk for human rights violations, including unethical recruitment practices which prey on vulnerable workers such as charging fees for jobs.

"International Human Rights Day is not only a time to call on governments to protect the rights of their citizens.  Corporations also have the responsibility to respect human rights by putting in place a 'human rights due diligence' process that requires knowing what their impacts are and showing what they are doing to prevent abuses and address any violations that have occurred," stated David Schilling, Senior Program Director, ICCR.  "When it comes to workers being trapped in bonded labor by recruiters charging fees, sometimes in the thousands of dollars, companies must be extremely vigilant lest they unknowingly become complicit by tolerating these practices in their supply chains. Companies are compelled not only to do their due diligence within their own operations but to ensure that their business partners and suppliers are also aware and rooting out these practices."

Eradicating human rights violations from global supply chains has been on faith investors’ agendas for decades,” said Sr. Kathleen Coll of CHE Trinity Health. “ICCR’s Statement of Principles offers sound guidance based on learnings from investor dialogues with hundreds of companies across multiple sectors. The principles document has been endorsed by nearly 500 organizations and individuals including institutional investors, faith communities, and anti-slavery and trafficking NGOs from all over the world. These first fifteen companies are only the first round in an ongoing initiative that will include many more companies and other sectors at risk for human rights abuses, such as companies in the electronic and retail sectors.”

“Investors can make a big difference in support of human rights by actively engaging companies in their portfolios,” commented John Arnold, Executive Director, Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) in the UK. “When investors work together across the Atlantic, there is greater leverage to change corporate behavior on the critical human rights issues of our time, especially the egregious abuses experienced by victims of modern slavery. International Human Rights Day this December 10th is the 20th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations Human Rights Office. It celebrates progress made over the past two decades and highlights challenges that we are working to overcome. It provides us with an important opportunity to increase awareness of modern day slavery and to gain commitments from companies to take concrete steps to eradicate trafficking and slavery within their spheres of influence.”

Susana McDermott
Director of Communications, ICCR
[email protected]

About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR):
Currently celebrating its 43rd year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of active shareholders who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for change.  Its 300 member organizations with over $100 billion in AUM have an enduring record of corporate engagement that has demonstrated influence on policies promoting justice and sustainability in the world.