January is Human Trafficking Awareness month. In recognition of the fight to end human trafficking and forced labor, here is a breakdown of the basics and indicators for identifying human trafficking.

Human trafficking, also known as modern slavery, can be defined as:

The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

22 U.S.C. § 7102(9)

The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that there are over 40 million people trapped in modern slavery around the world, and it is even found in the United States. Human trafficking can usually be broken down into three categories: sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and domestic servitude. This exploitation takes place through means of physical force, fraud and deception, or coercion and threats. Traffickers may withhold victims’ immigration documents to prevent freedom of movement, use unattainable recruitment fees as a means of locking victims into debt bondage, falsely advertise for one job and trap their victim in slavery, or threaten family and friends.

Everyone can participate in the fight against human trafficking by knowing the indicators, and speaking up by contacting law enforcement. The Department of Homeland Security developed a list of indicators to identify a victim, such as:

  • Increased anxiety;
  • Fearful, timid, or submissive behavior;
  • Signs of physical harm such as excessive bruises;
  • Signs the individual has been coached in what to say;
  • Sudden changes in behavior; or
  • Signs of being denied food, water, sleep, or medical attention.

Human trafficking is one the most lucrative criminal enterprises around the world generating around $150 billion annually. It could easily slip into your company’s global supply chain as forced labor. This could put your company at risk of violating local and international laws,as well as untold costs in reputational damage by implicating your company as indirectly supporting human trafficking.

The International Supply Chain Initiative (ISCI) can work with your company to identify the risk of human trafficking in the supply chain. ISCI can conduct a liability assessment and develop a remediation plan to reduce your company’s risk of forced labor in the supply chain.