On September 25, 2012, President Obama’s address to the Clinton Global Initiative touched on a significant labor issue that has resulted from the interconnected global economy: “All the business leaders who are here and our global economy companies have a responsibility to make sure that their supply chains, stretching into the far corners of the globe, are free of forced labor. The good news is more and more responsible companies are holding themselves to higher standards. And today, I want to salute the new commitments that are being made. That includes the new Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking — companies that are sending a message: Human trafficking is not a business model, it is a crime, and we are going to stop it.”
Quantification of social implication in the assessment of sustainable performance of industrial activities is one of the frontier areas in the life cycle assessment (LCA) community. The importance of the social aspects of sustainability are often underrepresented in sustainability discussions at various industrial levels. Most events that focus on industrial sustainability in once sector or another define their sustainability efforts in terms of economic prosperity, and more specifically, the economic terms of the individual company being represented. This narrow interpretation of sustainability restricts broader dialogues, which need to capture environmental and social implication—routinely generalized as externalities. It also draws attention away from fundamental wrong doing that permeate as an undercurrent, and ultimately helps to undermine the good work represented in improved industrial ecology and industrial sustainability.
President Obama added: “It is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name – modern slavery.”
The President issued an executive order to strengthen what he said is already a strict policy ensuring that government contractors do not engage in forced labor. “In short, we’re making clear that American tax dollars should never, ever, be used to support the trafficking of human beings. We will have zero tolerance; we mean what we say, we will enforce it,” said Obama.
This is a bold statement and a necessary step to help us inch towards a better global tomorrow. There is room for improvement for all actors regardless of industry, product category, market share, location, or economic status.