If you follow baseball, you may already know that Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu had a spectacular rookie season last year, including hitting 36 home runs, which is a team record. What few people know, however, is that at the same time, he also was paying off a huge financial debt to the people who helped him escape from his native Cuba. Abreu’s case, along with that of other Cuban baseball players, has put human trafficking in the news—where it rightly should be.
Newly unsealed court records describe the illegal smuggling that brings Cuban baseball players into the U.S. For Abreu, according to federal prosecutors, that included allegedly paying $5.8 million, transferred in three separate payments over nine months, to people who aided his defection, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The smuggling activity has come to light as part of an indictment in a South Florida case against one of Abreu’s former agents, Bart Hernandez, who was indicted in February on charges related to human trafficking. The indictment details how smugglers made payments to boat captains, including $160,000 for Abreu’s captain, and falsified documents to help top Cuban prospects eventually find their way to the U.S. to play professional baseball, the Tribune article reports. In return, the players were instructed to make large payments to the individuals who arranged their escapes, according to prosecutors.
When it comes to human trafficking, Abreu and other Cuban baseball players are lucky in that they didn't end up in forced labor camps. The International Labour Organization explains that the most common form of human trafficking is forced labor in domestic work, agriculture, construction and manufacturing. The organization estimates that almost 21 million people are victims of forced labor—11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys; almost 19 million victims are exploited by private individuals or enterprises and over two million are exploited by the state or rebel groups; and that forced labor in the private economy generates U.S. $150 billion in illegal profits per year.
Domestic and global regulations—such as the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act; U.S. Federal Acquisition Regulations guidelines around Human Trafficking; and the U.K. Modern Slavery Act—aim to eradicate human trafficking through requirements for mandatory audits and supply chain reporting. Failure to comply may result in fines and, potentially, barring of goods from entering certain countries. Although many companies are willing to achieve compliance that enables the ethical procurement of goods and services, it can be challenging to gain transparency into the multiple layers of their global supply chain.
I was interested then to see that Dun & Bradstreet now offers what it calls its Human Trafficking Risk (HTR) index, a solution designed to help companies better manage their global supply chains. Dun & Bradstreet uses proprietary data from its global database, along with public data from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Labor, to analyze conditions surrounding areas where goods are produced and assign a score to that region and commodity. It then creates an index of those scores to assess a company’s risk of being associated with goods and services potentially tied to human trafficking.
“Companies want to be responsible corporate citizens, but we hear time and again that they are underprepared and overwhelmed to meet supply chain due diligence requirements,” says Greg Iaquinto, leader in Global Supply & Risk Solutions, Dun & Bradstreet. “We are pleased to use our data and analytics to help customers manage their crucial business relationships by gaining greater insights and more transparency into the many layers of vendors and suppliers they do business with directly or indirectly.”
An argument can be made that companies, both large and small, need to gain increased visibility into all layers of their supply chain to address human trafficking because businesses and consumers alike increasingly make purchasing decisions based on brand reputation and responsible corporate practices. More importantly, working to end human trafficking and forced labor should be done simply because it is the right thing to do.