Curbing Human Trafficking with Analytics


Joe Stanganelli, Attorney & Marketer

Joe Stanganelli is founder and principal of Beacon Hill Law, a Boston-based general practice law firm. His expertise on legal topics has been sought for several major publications, including U.S. News and World Report and Personal Real Estate Investor Magazine. He is also a social media maven and marketing consultant. He has been working with social media for many years - even in the days of local BBSs (one of which he served as co-system operator for), well before the term "social media" was invented. From 2003 to 2005, Joe ran Grandpa George Productions, a New England entertainment and media production company. He is a produced playwright and has worked professionally as an actor, a director, and a producer. When he's not lawyering, marketing, or social-media-ing, Joe writes scripts, songs, and stories. He also finds time to lose at bridge a couple of times a month.

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Great use for Analytics
  • 7/12/2016 2:07:17 PM
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This is a great use for analytics. Here in Thailand the issues with slave labor tend to revolve around the shrimp fishing industry. I would be interested to see what impact these could make there. 

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/12/2016 5:53:36 PM
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so that they can ... avoid those manufacturers, contractors, or other vendors who may be using forced labor

Anyone else find the word 'may' a little troubling here?

Showing up on this list could hurt companies, who may or may not be guilty of using forced labor. If one were to show up on these lists, how do you go about clearing your name?

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/12/2016 11:02:06 PM
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That's a great point, how does a company go about proving they are not guilty and deal with the bad press. 

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/13/2016 8:42:26 AM
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@Bulk and PC. I actually like that they word it as "may" be using forced labor. If the D&B analysis looks for certain traits or behaviors in the supply chain, it wouldn't be hard proof that a supplier is abusing its workforce. That would only be a red flag for further investigation. The exception would be if the company had admitted poor treatment of workers in the past or if they had been found culpable in court. Even in the latter case you would want to do a follow-up investigation to see how they are treating workers today.

When you think about it, many (most?) analytics applications are intended to highlight exceptions that require a closer look before action can be taken.

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/13/2016 10:04:37 AM
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"May" is fine in most analytics efforts.

If you're on a list of my customers that "may" be a customer for our new cordless drill, I can send you various messages about it. And if I'm wrong, you suffer no harm.

Human trafficking is much more serious. If you're on a list of companies that "may" be involved in slavery or human trafficking, many of the largest and best customers will avoid you. They have worldwide sourcing and plenty of options, so the amount of effort any of your customers will spend to clear you is likely small. For them, it's "better safe than sorry"

For you, it's guilt by association.

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/13/2016 10:20:02 AM
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I agree. You had better be certain before exposing a company ofr human trafiicing practices.

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/15/2016 3:30:17 PM
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In re "You had better be certain before exposing a company for human trafiicing practices."

Thank goodness for smartphones with cameras, which have documented appalling abuse of farm workers in the US (Florida's tomato business), as well as in Mexico, which supplies a huge amount of cheap produce to the US. So it's getting easier to compile evidence, rather than just third-person accounts or hearsay.

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/15/2016 4:20:15 PM
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You do need to be sure you link the practice to the right company. usually there are multiple companies involved.

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/19/2016 9:09:04 AM
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With cultural practices commonly different than ours it's not surprising that greed will enter the company's policies. But still it's remarkable that "We have already identified 17,000 just among the companies on our database alone." Quite a shock that so many companies are involved or at the least looking the other way.

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/19/2016 11:47:13 AM
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@kq4ym. Yes, it's sad that 17,000 companies have been identified. Worse, think about how many of those companies are supplying products that you buy in the US. Still worse, think how many of those companies learned their business practices from the US, particularly from the historical titans of American business who thought nothing of treating workers as peons.

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/21/2016 8:59:16 PM
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I've glad to see this technology being used this way.  When small business start out they often just look for the least expensive vendor without anyway to verify their labor practices.  Some business have been put under when it was discovered who was making their products. 

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/22/2016 8:40:57 AM
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@Seth. Yes, some small businesses just starting out look for suppliers that  are cheap and available, and don't always do due diligence. However, more than one big, established business might look the other way when these suppliers are available at low cost. They are just as guilty, maybe more so, considering that they have the resources to vet their suppliers.

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/24/2016 4:19:18 AM
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It's hard to be ethical if business survival depends on a murky decision.  I've never heard of any business closing shop because it's the right thing to do. 

Also, when it comes to things such as child labor the lines become blury when a country is so deep in poverty y where it's a choice of the child working in a factory or the family going hungry. 

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/25/2016 8:09:06 PM
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@Seth, blurry lines, slippery slope --- however you want to describe it, excuses are not to be made in our day and age. Sure, extreme poverty exists all of the world, and I have never experienced it, so what do I know. But where do we draw the line for excuses ... child labor, selling children into prostitution, selling children into armies, terrorism ... ?

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/19/2016 8:49:18 PM
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Kq4ym writes


With cultural practices commonly different than ours it's not surprising that greed will enter the company's policies


 

Now what would be really interesting would be for someone to use analytics to cook up a database of all those companies whose policies are driven by greed ... 

..

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/18/2016 5:36:48 PM
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Terry, here in California there was a rash of exposure from smartphone images of animal cruelty. California being such a powerful agricultural state, the emmidiate response to stem the problem was to pass a law criminalizing capturing images without prior consent. Ethics, PR, financial interest. Which of these drive the bus in the final analysis.

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/18/2016 5:59:30 PM
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..

Rbaz writes that


... here in California there was a rash of exposure from smartphone images of animal cruelty. California being such a powerful agricultural state, the emmidiate response to stem the problem was to pass a law criminalizing capturing images without prior consent.


 

Wow, that is eerily reminiscent of Texas's False Disparagement of Perishable Food Products Act of 1995, which forbids bad-mouthing beef and other Texas food products. This led to that famous 1998 lawsuit against Oprah Winfrey (for her remark on a 1996 show that learning about the possibility of getting Mad Cow Disease "has just stopped me cold from eating another burger!").

The outcome was that Oprah prevailed against the suit (because plaintiffs failed to prove she and another defendant "deliberately and knowingly" spread false information). incidentally, it was in the course of this trial that Oprah met Dr. Phil McGraw (he was a psychological consultant to her defense team for jury selection). This led to her inviting Dr. Phil on her show for many episodes, then encouraging him to start his own show ... and the rest is history. 

For more interesting stuff on this issue: Food libel laws

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Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/18/2016 6:14:11 PM
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Thanks lyndon for the background information on the emerging of Dr Phil, but most of all highlighting the driving force and tenacity which interest is guarded and defended. Speak ethics but live economics.

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/13/2016 10:55:44 AM
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I guess it comes down to who D&B makes the list available to, and how (including what due diligence they do before releasing it to even one client). Maybe Joe knows what precautions they take.

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/17/2016 5:31:05 PM
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..

In his blog post, Joe writes


Apple's forced labor woes have continued with a recent exposé about the working conditions of iPhone assemblers at Pegatron, another of Apple's contractors in China. Meanwhile, revelations broke last month that a Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) auto plant allegedly engaged in exploitative and abusive labor practices.

Estimates from the International Labour Organization and other organizations indicate that there are presently more than 21 million victims -- men, women, and children -- of outright slavery and similarly exploitative labor practices worldwide. Dun & Bradstreet reports in an infographic that the forced labor practices of modern slavery generate approximately $150 billion in illicit profits.

On April 13, Dun & Bradstreet unveiled its Human Trafficking Risk Index, or "HTR" for short. Helping to clarify corporate "family trees" and linkages between entities and vendors throughout the procurement process, the HTR combines data from the US State Department, the International Labor Affairs Bureau, and Dun & Bradstreet's own proprietary data from 250 million global business records to pick out evidence of forced labor at specific locations along the supply chain and assign risk factors thereto on a seven-point scale. As a result, the HTR can inform companies' global supply-chain decisions so that they can demonstrate corporate responsibility and avoid those manufacturers, contractors, or other vendors who may be using forced labor.


 

This is an interesting use of analytics to compile a listing of companies possibly involved in "human trafficking", but I agree with the cautions expressed by others in this discussion. Government entities in particular can be notoriously sloppy in their use of innuendo and obfuscation to advance political agendas. Another example is the government's No-Fly list, the inaccuracies of which have even given a lot of Republicans cause for concern.

In the excerpts quoted above, there seems also to be a kind of mushiness in terms of what are "labor abuses", "forced labor", "slavery", and "human trafficking". If they're gonna count "exploitative labor practices" as a criterion for pillorying companies ... great, but wouldn't this just about include the entire U.S. corporate establishment?

 

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/18/2016 8:35:55 AM
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@Lyndon. Great point about the need to be specific when we discuss forced labor issues. For example, there's a huge difference between the kidnapping and drugging of teen-aged girls for the sex trade and paying undocumented workers mere pennies. Neither is right, but the degree of evil is very different. If both are considered human trafficking then maybe we need an even harsher term for the worst of the worst offenses.

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/18/2016 4:57:44 PM
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..

Jim writes


Great point about the need to be specific when we discuss forced labor issues. For example, there's a huge difference between the kidnapping and drugging of teen-aged girls for the sex trade and paying undocumented workers mere pennies. Neither is right, but the degree of evil is very different.


 

Particularly when analytics is brought into the issue, fuzziness in the data definitions should not be tolerated. Rightly or wrongly, analytics implies a higher level of precision and data reliability ...

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Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/13/2016 3:18:19 PM
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@James, I agree with your assessment, but I see where PC is coming from that media could jump all over a report that says "may" and then it becomes guilty until proven innocent and the damage is done.

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/13/2016 5:05:54 PM
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In truth, more than a few companies would be happy to wash their hands of this issue. If there is a public list of the "bad guys" they will quickly avoid doing any business with anyone on that list.

Then, if there is ever the hint of a scandal; you will hear them say "This is part of our policy. We don't buy from anyone on the Trafficking list". Having this fig leaf is very important.

But the list won't be better than your credit report. In other words, it's an indicator but it's not perfect. So woe to the companies who happen to be on the list even though they're innocent.

BTW - there will be companies NOT on the list that do have some issues with slavery or human traficking in the real world. Given the difficulty of avoiding this problem today, I doubt customer companies will put more effort into this problem after this tool is widely availalble.

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/14/2016 12:09:17 PM
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Right, the media would jump all over a list of the names of companies that are suspected of human trafficking or workforce abuse. That's why D&B has to make darn sure that they are right and can back up any such lists (in court down the road) and do due diligence. Until then nothing should go to the media other than the fact (like Joe writes about) that they are doing this project.

Re: Great use for Analytics
  • 7/14/2016 3:23:47 PM
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I would hope that is the case, but sooner or later i fear the list would get leaked to the press, like many things are and then it would be all down hill from there. Or perhaps I am worng and it would be all good. 

Late Night Food Service
  • 7/12/2016 3:50:50 PM
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This is really nice post and this is the best way to analysis !

Analytics for justice
  • 7/18/2016 4:00:34 PM
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Joe I support any analysis that can help consumers support ethical companies. I have been disturbed to hear about the production of luxury items from clothing to cars that use workers that are abused, underage, or unfairly treated, the best way to not contribute to this problem is to not buy products produced in these environments. I would use such an analysis to help me make decisions on what to purchase for myself, my business and my family.

 

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