On March 9th, The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF)’s Social Sustainability Director Didier Bergeret took part in a panel discussion at a conference co-hosted by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) and Shiva Foundation, entitled “Collaborating to Tackle Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery” at the UN Headquarters in New York. The conference, which was organised to lead up to the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women, provided an opportunity for NGOs, Governments, the private sector and the UN to come together to discuss strategies for tackling human trafficking and modern slavery. During the discussion, which also featured Heidi Koester Oliveira from CGF member Mars Inc., panellists spoke about ways in which the private sector is working to prevent and end human trafficking, and how to enhance accountability towards eliminating exploitation within different industries.

Currently more than half of the 25 million victims of forced labour are women and girls. “Modern slavery is not what you think it is”, Didier said, “the real issues of today are absolutely invisible”. Didier highlighted that “social sustainability gets far less publicity than environmental sustainability”, and whilst many continue to turn a blind eye, the CGF and its members have “publicly committed to dealing with this issue”. In 2016, the CGF launched its Board-approved Social Resolution on Forced Labour, the first industry commitment of its kind. The aim of the Resolution is to eradicate modern slavery from value chains once and for all.

 “We, as an industry, have decided to tackle complexity with simplicity and spell the issue out”, Didier explained, “with the creation and implementation of our Priority Industry Principles”. When dealing with a criminal sector that is far stronger than us, only by joining forces and implanting the Priority Industry Principles in our companies’ supply chains and own operations can we really make a change. Didier expressed his hope that the Principles would be adopted by other industries, including the hospitality industry, to facilitate effective collaborative action on this endemic issue. “If we collectively commit, then we can make a difference”, he said.

The CGF is grateful to have had this opportunity to participate and contribute to this impactful dialogue between business, civic society and policy-makers. We believe that engaging in open dialogue of this nature moves us towards ending violence against and enslavement of women and girls worldwide.

More specifically, the CGF was pleased to be invited by representatives from the hotel and hospitality industry through the Shiva Foundation. CGF is delighted to continue our open dialogue with representatives from the sector and look forward to the possibility that the Priority Industry Principles may be used as a cross-sector tool that can promote the eradication of forced labour within the hotel and hospitality industry globally.

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