Past Event

Trafficking, Supply Chains, & Gender Roundtable

Tuesday, May 21, 2013
8:30 am - 12:00 pm

25 Van Ness Avenue, Room 610
San Francisco

On Tuesday, May 21, 2013, the Department on the Status of Women hosted a roundtable regarding trafficking, supply chains, and gender and their connection to California’s 2010 anti-human trafficking law (Section 1714.43 of the California Civil Code).

Emily Murase, PhD, Executive Director of the Department on the Status of Women welcomed over 45 participants representing large companies, such as Gap, Levi Strauss & Co., PG&E, Deloitte, and Symantec. Aimee Allison, Media and Community Affairs Director with the Department on the Status of Women moderated a panel of experts and noted the recent news about the factory in Bangladesh that collapsed, and had been used by American companies to create their apparel. The panel included Cynthia L. Jackson, Partner with Baker & McKenzie, LLP; Dr. Shawn MacDonald, Director of Programs and Research with Verité; and Jeffrey Tsai, Special Assistant Attorney General for criminal law with the California Department of Justice.

Cynthia Jackson began by introducing the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act (effective January 1, 2012). She specified that it “does not require companies to be socially responsible, but instead to simply disclose information about their supply chains.” In other words, it requires companies to tell the public what they are doing (or not doing) to ensure their supply chains are human trafficking free. She went on to detail the five requirements for the companies covered by the law. Those companies must post the following on their websites:

  1. Whether or not verification of product supply chains have been made to address risks of human trafficking and slavery, and if the verification is conducted by a third party.
  2. Whether or not the company conducts audits of suppliers to evaluate compliance with company standards for trafficking and slavery in supply chains and how those audits are conducted (i.e., unannounced).
  3. Whether or not the company directs suppliers to certify that material incorporated into the product complies with the laws regarding slavery and human trafficking where the supplier does business.
  4. Whether or not the company itself maintains accountability procedures for those suppliers failing to meet their own standards.
  5. Whether or not the company conducts management trainings to mitigate the risks within their supply chain for human trafficking and slavery. 

She highlighted the importance of companies ensuring that they understand the standards they plan to adopt before they adopt them in order to give full disclosure to the consumers. If the process is a work in progress, the company should state that. Jackson explained that having a strict “no tolerance” policy on trafficking may just force the suppliers to lie about their practices and that instead, creating a more open policy that demands the truth, even if it is not yet perfect, helps to encourage honest communication about problems so they can be resolved.

Jeffrey Tsai, California Special Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Law, stated that “SB657 is a conversation starter” in that it opens up the discussion with companies about what they need to do in relation to ensuring trafficking is not taking place and what are some best practices. He reiterated that the law is primarily about transparency and that, if companies do not comply, only the Attorney General’s office can ask for injunctive relief to make them comply. There is no private right of action and no other form of punishment if the law is not followed. He added that the Department of Justice will not release a list of companies that are failing to follow good practices in relation to trafficking because of privacy issues and because the law itself does not require that these practices be followed, only that consumers have access to information regarding it online.

The risks of slavery and human trafficking are significant, with between 12-27 million people being victims of slavery and forced labor worldwide. Shawn MacDonald of Verité explained that “the noose is getting tighter and tighter about what companies are doing [in relation to human trafficking and their supply chains] because of the urgency of the situation.” The question is not whether they are connected to human trafficking, but instead how much they are connected. Therefore, it is important that companies examine all of the suppliers they rely on, specifically focusing how the people working for them were recruited. He encouraged companies to look for warning signs that include migrant and undocumented workers recruited by large labor recruitment companies.

The attendees then split up into small group discussions to consider what they had learned from the panel. Many groups talked about what consumers can do (including petitions, online movements, etc.) because the law is meant to give consumers power to influence where they spend their money by providing them knowledge about the companies supply chain practices. Others argued that the responsibility cannot fall only on consumers, but that education and training of the corporate sector is also needed and that more enforcement and guidelines would be helpful.

For more information on trafficking and supply chains, please refer to the following handouts:

Compliance is Not Enough: Best Practices in Responding to the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act

Beyond SB 657: How Businesses Can Meet and Exceed California's Requirements to Prevent Forced Labor in Supply Chains

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