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'Freedom Seal' Certifies Companies Committed to a World Free from Slavery

leonkaye headshotWords by Leon Kaye
Leadership & Transparency
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We have covered many ethical certifications here at TriplePundit, but one that should especially resonate with businesses and consumers is the Freedom Seal. Launched on Wednesday by the anti-human trafficking and slavery NGO Tronie Foundation, the Freedom Seal is the culmination of the organization’s 15-year quest to stop slavery while advocating for survivors of human trafficking across the world.

Rani Hong, who was sold as a slave in India at the age of 7, heads the Tronie Foundation, which she co-founded with her husband, Trong Hong, who himself was recruited as a child soldier in Vietnam when he was 9 years old. The organization’s executive committee developed a plan in 2010 to end the global human trafficking and slave trade in 25 years. In addition to offering support services for human trafficking survivors, the foundation works with international organizations such as the United Nations, as well as businesses, to raise awareness about the impacts of slavery. By eliminating the demand for goods and services produced with slave labor, the Tronie Foundation aims to end slave trade, which continues to fester on all of the world’s continents.

Businesses interested in applying for the Freedom Seal must go through an application process that includes three broad steps. First, the applicant has to demonstrate that it has raised awareness about human trafficking and slavery with its customers and stakeholders. Next, the company has to develop a local program that supports human trafficking survivors. Finally, established systems that prevent slavery within a company’s goods and services must be verified by the Tronie Foundation before they can use the Freedom Seal. Fees depend on a company’s revenues, and the organization’s staffers vet a company’s documentation again after two years.

According to the Tronie Foundation, the Freedom Seal is important for companies to consider because other certifications do not address human trafficking problems with enough rigor. Other seals focus on social responsibility in general; no other certification program covers human trafficking and slavery with greater depth. The Tronie Foundation also goes beyond checklists and donations in its fight against this growing problem: It requires companies to develop specific policies related to human trafficking and slavery and requires companies to get involved with the care and advocacy of survivors.

While many consumers want to believe human trafficking is long gone since the era portrayed in movies such as "12 Years a Slave," the evidence suggests slavery is a growing problem that is far too profitable for the few who savagely thrive off of the misery of many. According to the International Labor Organization, about 21 million people, 55 percent of whom are women and girls, are trapped in slavery worldwide. The human trafficking trade is a US$150 billion annual business, two-thirds of which is from commercial sexual exploitation. The other third results from agriculture, domestic work and other economic transactions.

Many of these people trapped into forced labor paid hefty “recruiting” fees in the belief they were scoring gainful employment: CNN has estimated that half of the foreign workers trapped into forced employment within the United States paid an average of US$6,150 to headhunters who lied about the nature of the work promised to them.

Clearly, more work needs to be done to stop human slavery. The electronics industry has committed to eliminating forced labor within the sector. And on this side of the pond, HP says it is the first information technology company to require its suppliers to directly employ migrant workers within its supply chain. Unfortunately, far too many people, often the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, are suffering from one of the worst human rights tragedies, and businesses need to take a lead on stopping this odious practice.

Image credit: Tronie Foundation

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye, Executive Editor, has written for Triple Pundit since 2010. He is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media, and the Editor in Chief of CR Magazine. His previous work can be found at The GuardianSustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. Kaye is based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas.

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