William & Mary Business Law Review


Dana Raigrodski


A great amount of revenue generated by businesses in the global economy can be linked to the trafficking and enslavement of human beings. Yet, the current discourse on human trafficking fails to recognize the magnitude of benefit consumers, businesses, and economies gain from the work of forced and trafficked labor. Moreover, the limited efforts that seek to address this situation have focused on ways to encourage businesses to voluntarily adopt more socially responsible practices. These measures have had only limited success, and are generally believed to be in tension with the for-profit purposes of businesses. Hence, the task of convincing businesses to truly unearth and remedy human trafficking in their supply chains seems an uphill battle. This article challenges these prevailing views and offers a business approach to eliminate forced labor and human trafficking from global supply chains. Relying on a series of business studies that encourage strategic use of corporate social responsibility in order to increase competitiveness and pursue shared value, this Article makes the case for businesses to pursue supply chains clean of forced and trafficked labor as a core business strategy which is consistent with—and even advances—their profit-seeking goals. Many successful companies have incorporated environmental sustainability into their business models and achieved short-term profits and long-term added value. A few leading apparel manufacturers are similarly focusing on responsible yet profitable labor practices, and preliminary data from the International Labor Organization (ILO) Better Work Program demonstrates linkages between better work conditions and improved market competitiveness. Using this data, this Article shows that business policies that minimize the incentives to use forced and trafficked labor do not inherently compromise profits and can also improve a business’s bottom line. In doing so, it suggests that the task of convincing business leaders to adopt better policies may be less challenging if framed as a core business strategy in the pursuit of profit.