Faith-based group reports more headway in deterring child trafficking
By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON - With each major sporting event, it seems, more progress is being made at getting the companies who benefit the most financially from these events to lend their considerable weight in deterring child trafficking.
While the most obvious face of child trafficking is prostitution, it also includes child labor and forced labor.
The first worldwide effort was the World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa in 2010. Earlier this year, a consortium of Catholic investment groups did the same with the Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
This summer, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility tackled the Olympic Games in London. And Julie Tanner, assistant director of socially responsible investing for Christian Brothers Investment Services, said more companies than ever before responded favorably to their queries.
Hotels are a hot spot for child prostitution. Christian Brothers sent letters to 13 hotel chains doing business in London. “We heard from all 13 hotels. And we got commitment from 11 of the 13 to train,” Tanner told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 11 telephone interview from New York. “We didn’t get that with the World Cup.”
Part of what Christian Brothers seeks in its queries are commitments to provide training to hotel staff to identify traffickers - both pimps and customers - as well as the children being trafficked.
Christian Brothers Investment Services - a collection of 39 religion-based investment funds with a cumulative $58 billion in assets - approached “official” Olympic sponsors as well, a first for the organization.
“We wrote 20 of them and we heard back from 19, to ask them about their policies on human trafficking,” Tanner said. “That was a very good response. And their responses were very robust and substantive.”
The Olympic sponsors approached by Christian Brothers were “a wide range of companies - mining, cars, customer service products, food. Sponsors Tanner cited included, General Electric, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s and Panasonic. “We got some U.K. companies and well. The only company we didn’t hear from was Dow (Chemical),” Tanner said.
Christian Brothers Investment Services prepared a report for its member funds, highlighting best practices in preventing child trafficking in their enterprises. “Companies are taking positive steps,” Tanner said. “We were high on ArcelorMittal (a German mining company with U.S. plants), Adidas, Coke and Procter & Gamble.”
Tanner said talks are under way with International Olympic Committee officials to require future sponsors to adhere to a code of conduct that would actively work against child trafficking.
“It shows the attention to the issue of childhood sexual exploitation” now being paid, Tanner said.
“The IOC wrote back to us, but they didn’t address all the concerns that we raised. We asked the IOC to have human rights guidelines for sponsors, and to have a process starting throughout the whole Olympic cycle, to make sure people are protected ... and asking for reporting at the end of the Olympics,” Tanner told CNS. “The challenge is to make things more successful for the next Olympics.”
In between now and then, though, Christian Brothers Investment Services will stay focused on the issue.
““There’s a group forming that’s working on the 2013 Super Bowl, which is being held in New Orleans,” Tanner said. “In 2014, the Super Bowl is coming to the New York-New Jersey area. We’re writing to the NFL now,” she added. “It beats writing to all the sponsors and all of the hospitality venues around the event.”
Nor is the focus on child trafficking staying stateside. Tanner cited the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland, the 2013 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, both slated for Brazil, and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. “Activities are under way for all those events,” she said.
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops