Google has taken a strong stance against modern-day slavery as part of the company’s wide-ranging CSR efforts. The Internet giant recently donated $11.5 million in grants across ten organizations to help fight against “an existence that is almost unfathomable in its degradation and inhumanity” that “millions of human beings are subjected to” daily.
From debt bondage and forced labor to sexual exploitation and organ removal, activists, analysts and policymakers estimate between 10 million and 30 million people worldwide are directly impacted by human trafficking and related crimes. The broader associated costs to development and human rights as much as triple the numbers affected by the scourge.
According to Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, “these are among the manifestations of slavery today. All are crimes and egregious violations of human rights.”
“To eradicate contemporary forms of slavery, we need new strategies and measures that can unite all actors. While Governments bear the primary responsibility, the private sector has an integral role to play,” Ban said recently.
Ban Ki-moon has appealed to governments, NGOs, the private business sector and others “to demonstrate their commitment” by making contributions to the UN Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. UN.Gift—a multi-agency UN effort to combat human trafficking—and the corporate sustainability effort, the UN Global Compact, have made combatting modern forms of slavery a focus of their efforts.
Ban has characterized the battle as a key part of the UN’s “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework on business and human rights, saying: ”The corporate responsibility to respect includes ensuring that their activities do not cause or contribute to contemporary forms of slavery in the workplace, and taking steps to stop it from happening in supply chains and elsewhere.”
Google announced the $11.5 million grant on its website as part of a total of $40 million it gave in charitable donations last holiday season.
While human trafficking and slavery are one of the most clear-cut human rights issues from a legal standpoint they are also one of the most difficult to combat. The trade in flesh operates almost exclusively behind a carefully crafted veil of secrecy on the black market despite law enforcement, NGO and government efforts. By engaging with a variety of stakeholders working on the issue and promoting efforts to address the causes that contribute to the trade, Google has adopted a leadership position on a challenge common to all multinationals.
Washington-based human rights agency International Justice Mission (IJM) is one of the ten recipients to receive grant funding from Google. President and CEO of IJM, Gary Haugen said Google’s move was a “game-changing investment.” IJM “works to rescue victims of slavery and sexual exploitation in about a dozen countries.”
“This is the largest corporate step up to the challenge that is beginning to apply direct resources to the fight against slavery,” Haugen said.
It’s estimated that 12,000 people will be freed from slavery with Google’s support, and the grant recipients claim that millions more could be prevented from being victimized.
Jacquelline Fuller, Google’s director of charitable giving, said that “the company chose to spotlight the issue of slavery because the topic of freedom—’the most basic of human rights,’ as she puts it—resonated with company employees around the world.”
“Many people are surprised to learn there are more people trapped in slavery today than any time in history,” Fuller said. “The good news is that there are solutions. Google is supporting organizations that have a proven track record and a plan to make a difference at scale.”
IJM in India leads two coalitions that received $8 million, the majority of the $11.5 million donation, with “about half going toward direct intervention and government-led rescue operations, and half toward advocacy and awareness projects.” The Polaris Project, which operates a hotline called the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, and Slavery Footprint, which is an “interactive website and mobile app that estimates how much of a user’s lifestyle relies on forced labor,” and IJM will receive $1.8 million. Both projects are part of the US Anti-Trafficking Initiative.
Most of IJM’s funding is from private donations, and in 2010, less than 1 percent “of its funding came from major corporations or corporate foundations.”
“It gives us a sense of what’s possible,” said Haugen. “We can actually change the whole balance of resources between those who are the criminals, hurting human beings and those who are on the side of those who need freedom today.”