The Business of Trafficking: Risks and Rewards

It’s an old cliché for businesses to talk about people being “our greatest assets”. Many a Human Resources department will wax lyrical on this point, to win the best recruits and, in turn, the highest profit margins.

Whether or not you buy into the cliché, there’s one area in which it holds true…

Human trafficking.

According to UN estimates, human trafficking is the second most lucrative source of illegal income in the world today, worth some $31.6 billion. In contrast to notions of slavery as a blight confined to ‘the developing world’, it is in fact the most ‘industrialised’ economies which generate 49% of this vast sum. Meanwhile, convictions for trafficking remain the rare exception rather than the rule.

Trafficking is a tragic bargain these days. So great is the return on modern-day slavery, criminal entrepreneurs have often “re-tooled” to cash in; after all, human trafficking tends to pose fewer risks than drug trafficking. Once, it would have cost you around $40,000 to traffick a human being. Now, it’s about the same price as an iPod shuffle.

At the Finance Against Trafficking (FAT) conference last week, Steve Chalke reflected on the crux of the problem:

People trafficking is about money. To the trafficker, it’s a lucrative way to make a huge profit, with minimal risks. So how do we combat this? We need to reverse things. We need to increase the risks of trafficking for traffickers, and diminish their profits.

The reality is, until global businesses are vigilant to the trafficking behind their own supply chains and clients – from money-laundering investors to exploitative cleaning contractors – their ignorance will continue to play into the hands of this dark industry.

In response to this challenge, last week’s ‘FAT’ conference saw a step in the right direction, with representatives from global banks, multinational corporations, police authorities and charities in attendance – all eager to take tangible steps to stamp out trafficking in business.

Reflecting on his own success story in shifting the company to Fairtrade certification, former Starbucks CEO Darcy Willson-Rymer was quick to stress that business leaders – no less than councillors or constables – must be proactive in stamping out the market for trafficking within their own spheres of influence:

As a CEO, I’m not going to stop turning a profit. But the question is, what am I going to do?

If people really are the greatest asset – and not just as a commodity – then it is the job of businesses big and small to get proactive in traffik-proofing their future business. And as Darcy observes, this need not equate to sacrificing business success.

With the forthcoming launch of Finance Against Trafficking’s “ChainChecker” tool, we are putting the tools of customised prevention firmly in the hands of whoever will take them. Not merely to bandage a glaring wound, but to stop people from getting hurt in the first place.

If you would like to lower the risk of human trafficking in your business whilst preserving your profits, find out more at or email us at .


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