Even companies that have come to terms with the risks of bribe-payers, terrorists, and other criminals in their supply and marketing chains still struggle to believe that they may inadvertently support human trafficking. With an estimated 4 million persons trafficked each year, the problem is not small. Traffickers recruit vulnerable persons and provide them—sell them—to work for entities lower down the supply chain. Adults and children alike are forced into industries as varied as agriculture, mining, sex work, textiles, and domestic service. While U.S. laws can’t readily reach those who take advantage of trafficked labor in most countries, there is one community over which they can exert considerable pressure: U.S. government contractors.
Imagine this scenario, which is not at all farfetched. A civilian contractor is operating in a post-conflict area of the world alongside a U.S. military peacekeeping mission there. As the weeks go by, it is generally known—although not openly discussed—that employees of the contractor are visiting prostitutes in local brothels and, eventually, they begin bringing them back onto the compound and housing them there. The contractor ignores the risk, despite the fact that the region is a hotbed for human traffickers. Eventually, when the U.S. Department of Defense becomes aware of what’s going on, it implements a mandated zero-tolerance policy against the contractor for participating in human trafficking and forced labor. The contractor not only loses its right to bid on future government contracts, but faces a federal criminal investigation as well.