Business Solutions to Human Trafficking

By Mats Tunehag, with input from Jennifer Roemhildt Tunehag

In the 1700’s the slave trade was widely accepted and legal. It was, in fact, a backbone of the economy of the British Empire. It was a big, organized and transnational business.

William Wilberforce and the Clapham group decided to fight this evil trade. They chose to attack the systemic issue – the legality of slave trade and slavery. To that end they organized a decades long campaign focusing on justice, aiming at a root cause. They worked politically to change unjust and ungodly laws that permitted the dehumanizing trade.

They could have chosen an easier route of awareness campaigns and a boycott of sugar from plantations in Jamaica, but they knew such initiatives in themselves would not free the slaves or bring about lasting change. The feel good factor may have been higher, but the long-term outcomes would have been meager.

Charity and justice

Today the slave trade and slavery are illegal, but not dead. Human trafficking is modern day slavery, and it is a lucrative and evil business. Just like Wilberforce and his colleagues, we need to ask what the systemic issue is today – and we need to go beyond charitable actions to fight for justice.

We visited St. Andrew Catholic Church in Clemson, South Carolina early 2016, and their vision statement[1] struck us:

“Charity” is the generosity that alleviates needs that are immediate. “Justice” is the process by which generosity configures our ways of providing education, delivering health care, doing business, and creating laws that lessen the need for charity. There will always be immediate needs even in the most just of worlds.

Charity is the more attractive generosity. We see immediate results for the better and we enjoy – here and now – the gratification that comes from doing good. Justice is less attractive because it usually calls for personal and communal change, and we are creatures of habit.

We often respond to needs and global issues through non-profit charity models. But the danger is that some may have more of a PR function sprinkled with feel good factors, rather than dealing with systemic issues and root causes.

Wilberforce and the Clapham group were not popular; they worked against an institution – slavery – that was broadly accepted. Today, taking a position against human trafficking is among the easiest things you can do. The world will applaud you! But how can your stand free slaves and restore human dignity?

Root cause to human trafficking

We need to identify root causes to human trafficking. One answer is unemployment. Places with high unemployment and under-employment become high-risk areas, where traffickers trick and trap vulnerable people looking for jobs. Thus we cannot talk about adequate prevention of human trafficking unless we include the need for jobs with dignity.[2]

We must also answer the question: out of trafficking and into what? Jobs with dignity provide a hope for sustainable freedom to survivors. Effective prevention and restoration require jobs. Who can create jobs with dignity? Business people.

Big, organized and transnational

Human trafficking is a huge and hugely profitable crime, connecting criminal organisations around the world. It is big, organised and transnational. On the other side, most of those combatting trafficking are in the non-profit sector; and the charities responding are often small, local and poorly connected. We need to develop strategies and initiatives focused on business solutions to human trafficking, and they must have the capacity to be (or become) big, organised and transnational.

Business solutions: BAM & the Freedom Business Alliance

In 2012, the Business as Mission Global Think Tank assigned a working group to explore business solutions to human trafficking. The group identified businesses that aim at providing solutions to human trafficking, particularly by providing jobs for prevention and restoration.[3]

Called freedom businesses, these businesses exist to fight human trafficking. There are several types of business that fit into this category:  businesses that create jobs for survivors of exploitation would be the most familiar.  Other workplaces hire vulnerable people in order to prevent exploitation, or aggregate products from these first two and bring them to new markets. Because employment is an important aspect of human dignity, freedom businesses offer opportunities to people whose main qualification is the need for a job.[4]

The Think Tank group produced a groundbreaking report: A Business Takeover: Combating the Business of the Sex Trade with Business as Mission.[5] Excerpts from the report reinforce the crucial role of business:

Freedom businesses are uniquely positioned to strike at the economically driven foundations of the sex trade. By combining the necessary components of economic productivity and holistic ministry, the staggering numbers of people caught in the trade can be reduced through the powerful response of freedom business.

Traditionally, businesses have been relegated to participating in anti-trafficking work as the funding source for the work of nonprofits. However, business as mission (BAM) entrusts businesses with much more than simply funding nonprofit work; the business itself becomes the vehicle of change. As such, both nonprofit and for-profit strategies are integral to success in anti-trafficking work.

Business and nonprofit work can come together in anti-trafficking work to focus on job creation, increasing the employability of individuals who have been victimized by human trafficking, and in their subsequent aftercare.”

This report catalyzed the launch of the Freedom Business Alliance (FBA)[6], a global trade association that believes business can be a powerful tool in the holistic restoration of individuals and the transformation of their communities. FBA aims at providing business training and mentoring, industry research, networking opportunities, information, resources and marketplace connections.

In January 2016, the Freedom Business Alliance was invited to engage business leaders from companies like Coca Cola, Life Shape, Oracle, Anthem, Randstad, Deloitte, SalesForce, Delta Airlines, and Infosys who wanted to use their business experience and corporate infrastructure to combat human trafficking.  FBA presented the corporations with on-ramps for engagement, including:

allowing employees to do pro-bono consultation with freedom businesses;

employing vulnerable people in every place they do business;

training freedom businesses in business skills; and

becoming financial supporters of the Freedom Business Alliance

Freedom Business Forum 2017

Freedom businesses exist because jobs with dignity are a primary need for prevention of human trafficking. They are also necessary to bring restoration to survivors of modern day slavery. The Freedom Business Alliance exists to help freedom businesses – these and others – to succeed.

To that end the Freedom Business Forum was held in Chiang Mai, Thailand in late August 2017.  FBA hosted 138 people from 28 countries to network with other freedom business leaders and access business training and expert consultants. The event was designed as a ‘one stop shop’ for strategic solutions to the challenges facing freedom business, and an opportunity to build community for the freedom journey.

Review concept of return on investment, ROI

As we acknowledge the importance of both financial capital and investors, we also need to review the concept of ROI. The most prevalent paradigm is a Wall Street concept.

Simply put, Wall Street is relatively one-dimensional: it is about money. Investors put money into a business, with the hope and expectation that they will get more money back – in the shortest time possible. It is a two-way street: money goes from investor to business, and then back from business to investor. This is not bad or evil, but we need to think bigger, beyond the traditional ROI.

Wall Street vs. BAM Street [7]

We need to move from Wall Street to BAM Street. Business as Mission is about seeking a positive impact on multiple bottom-lines for multiple stakeholders through business.

BAM Street recognizes the importance of investors, business owners and operators, but also values other stakeholders such as employees, customers, suppliers, family, church, community, creation, and ultimately, God.  BAM Street is multi-dimensional. Besides financial capital, we are intentional about putting other kinds of capital into a business: intellectual capital (for example, through mentoring) and spiritual input (for instance, prayer).

BAM Street is more of a roundabout than a simple two-way street.

Roundabouts have multiple entry and exit points. I may put money into a BAM or freedom business, but the financial return (part or whole) may go to some other entity in the BAM eco-system. Part of the profit can go the community, to profit-sharing schemes or into investment in other BAM companies.  BAM Street engages people and groups with diverse resources to use business as a blessing – on many levels and for many stakeholders.

BAM Street and solutions to human trafficking

The global BAM movement needs more financial capital, and so do freedom businesses. But more money is not enough if we just think and operate on a Wall Street concept. Should we settle for Wall Street, or should we move towards BAM Street? With the latter model we can see more and different kinds of capital invested in businesses, with more returns to more stakeholders.

Freedom and restoration of human dignity can be returns of BAM Street investments, and the Freedom Business Alliance may serve, in part, as a “BAM Street stock exchange”.

Movements of societal transformation[8]

Fighting human trafficking through business solutions is necessary but it is not a quick fix. We are seeking a good and lasting change, a holistic transformation on a macro scale.

Throughout history there has been movements of societal transformation. We can mention the Protestant reformation, Wilberforce and the abolitionists, the suffragettes, and the civil rights movement in the US.

Looking at these movements, one can observe some common themes. The groups often started as a small minority with a shared vision and common values. They connected with one another, built a critical mass, and had a commendable tenacity.

The freedom business movement has the potential to become a movement of societal transformation. The vision is clear and the values are shared. Although small, they have taken significant steps via the Freedom Business Alliance to build critical mass. You are of course invited to join the freedom movement!

Doing BAM and growing freedom businesses to bring freedom and achieve societal transformation is not instant coffee: take a few bits of BAM thinking and a desire for freedom, stir into a business and voilà: transformation. No, societal transformation takes time. We want to set a stage and serve our generation in such a way that it will be a blessing for many generations to come.

BAM, freedom business, and the Olive Tree

We can learn from the olive tree. Many of us think in terms of two kinds of olives: green and black. But there are a thousand or more varieties! In the BAM movement we are not just two categories: business people on the one hand, and church and mission people on the other. Instead, we are part of a greater eco-system of investors, bookkeepers, prayer partners, entrepreneurs, academics, human trafficking experts, theologians, marketing and sales people, and many others.

After planting, it takes about twenty-five years before an olive tree bears edible fruit. But once it starts bearing fruit, it can produce olives for two thousand years – or more! Olive trees are intergenerational blessings.

The modern BAM movement and the freedom business movement are still young; we are in some ways still within the first 25 years of the life of an olive tree. We do see some fruit, but are eagerly awaiting more.

In this stage of growth, the BAM olive tree needs care and feeding; the strategic and intentional investment of time and resources.  We want to build a movement that can bring the good and lasting “fruit” of transformation, and we know that this will take time. In the meantime, we hold tenaciously to the vision of freedom as we build BAM communities and develop the Freedom Business Alliance.

We embrace the promise that God will bless us so we can be a blessing – in and through business – in our generation and for many generations to come.

 

 

[1] Find out more about the vision of the St. Andrew Catholic Church in Clemson, South Carolina: http://www.saclemson.org/a-parish-vision

[2] Mats wrote a longer article in 2015 which elaborates on human trafficking, a root cause and business solutions: http://matstunehag.com/2015/05/17/human-trafficking-and-freedom-through-enterprise/

[3] Jennifer describes the development of the Freedom Business Alliance in an interview, see http://businessasmission.com/fba-interview/

[4] Jennifer gives an introduction to freedom businesses in this video vignette https://vimeo.com/152460926

[5] The BAM Global Think Tank report on BAM and Human Trafficking: http://bamglobal.org/report-trafficking/

[6] Make sure to watch the FBA introductory video at http://www.freedombusinessalliance.com

[7] Mats wrote an article on the issue: http://matstunehag.com/2015/06/24/wall-street-vs-bam-street/. There is also a short two minutes video: The Wall Street model is too limited; we need a more broad and impactful BAM Street concept: https://vimeo.com/152713984

[8] See also Mats’ article on BAM, the olive tree and movements of societal transformation from 2013: http://matstunehag.com/2013/05/08/bam-the-olive-tree/

Mats TunehagMats Tunehag has been speaking, writing and convening on business as mission for 20 years. He is the Senior Associate on Business as Mission for both the Lausanne Movement and World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission. He is the co-editor of the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission and currently the co-chair of BAM Global. He also serves with a global investment fund based on Christian values that helps SMEs to grow in size, profitability and holistic impact in the Arab world and Asia. Visit MatsTunehag.com for more resources from Mats.

Freedom Through Business: Hold Fast to Your Dream

by Mats Tunehag

My wife and I spent a couple of weeks in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos in August. The focus was freedom! Freedom from slavery and injustice, and freedom to live in truth, enjoy beauty, create wealth and share goodness. This is the story of freedom business.

We know that jobs with dignity are a primary need for prevention of human trafficking. It is also a must to bring restoration of survivors of modern day slavery.

That’s why freedom businesses exist, and the Freedom Business Alliance exists to help freedom businesses succeed.

To that end the Freedom Business Forum was held in Chiang Mai, Thailand in late August. It was the first global gathering of its kind, and about 140 people from all continents participated. It was a great mix of people and talents, all committed to true freedom through business, with all their hearts and minds.

Freedom business is hard, but necessary. And some are called to it, and as Pope Francis says: “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world.  It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.” 

The concluding keynote address at the Forum was held by one of my heroines, Annie Dieselberg. She runs a freedom business in Bangkok. Her calling is clear and her commitment exemplary. Her challenging freedom business journey is reflected in a most inspirational speech. Here’s Annie:

Hold Fast to Your Dream

My children recently decided they needed to make some money. Secretly they began creating products and then they laid them out on the table and announced their store was open. They invited mom and dad to come and to make purchases. What they had created was paper bookmarks, origami, and drawings, which they had priced at around 10-20 baht each. My husband and I each chose a couple of their products and my kids proudly pocketed their income with plans for an outing to the nearest 7/11. They had figured out that earning money was purchasing power and the ability to make choices.

Most of us, if not all of us, at young ages, became aware of the power that money has to give us choices in life. Most of us probably came up with innovative ideas of how to make some money to gain choices that our parents were not providing for us. From lemonade stands, to car washes, to babysitting, or mowing peoples’ lawns, there was in us a desire to create money, because money is purchasing power and gives the ability to make choices. The ability to choose is not something to be taken for granted. It is something that comes with freedom.

Freedom allows for choice, which can be used for good or for evil, for self entirely or for the good of others.

My older daughter Kristina was a nanny for a very wealthy and prominent business family. One day my daughter and the 3 year old were discussing friends. The wealthy family traveled so much that she didn’t have any friends to play with. The 3 year old announced, “That’s okay, I will buy friends.”

This 3 year old already understood that money was power. From her worldview she could get anything she wanted with money. She is too young to understand the negative consequences of misuse of money and power, especially when it comes to relationships.

The business of prostitution and sex trafficking makes billions of dollars of profit for people with evil and selfish goals. It preys on vulnerabilities of people who have few choices in life and turns them into slaves and commodities. It is an obscene abuse of power and of wealth. The dreams of the victims to gain income for their families and improve the quality of life, quickly turns into terrorizing nightmares that scare away their dreams.

Prior to working with women in prostitution, I mostly viewed the business world as the other side – where greedy and selfish people used money used for privilege and exclusivity while ignoring or exploiting the vulnerabilities of the poor. I made the mistake of dismissing business as a whole.

Somewhere around 2003 however, I was introduced to Business as Mission and I began to see the strength of business and the opportunity for individual, community, and global impact.[1] I realized that it wasn’t business or making money that was evil and self-serving, but the misuse of that privilege. I realized that the creation of business, is a key to sustaining freedom, by providing survivors life-giving choices.[2]

I am a survivor… I have survived being a pioneer in the freedom business movement. In 2005, my team and I began NightLight Design Co. Ltd. The story I have told many times over is a humble beginning with one girl over a coke at McDonalds learning to make a necklace. She needed a job and I promised her one so with a prayer and a leap of faith we began. Though I had 5 years experience working with survivors, I did not have any professional business experience. Being a pioneer in the field I had no mentors that could guide me in creating or operating a freedom business.

Initially visiting business people’s advice lacked awareness of the challenges of working with survivors. Mission groups came through with advice on addressing the spiritual or emotional needs, but their advice lacked the understanding of the business side. I quickly discovered that we were pioneers with a big machete in hand, hacking through the jungle vines. We would encounter valleys and mountains, we would get hit in the face with branches, bit by spiders and snakes, trip and fall on our way to find the path. It was messy and it was and is an adventure.

The business took off quickly with a lot of excitement. By the third year we had 88 women employed. I made a hasty and foolish promise to God that I would not reject anyone who came our way for help. It was a promise I couldn’t keep. As other organizations began to emerge with similar businesses and the market quickly became saturated, we began to realize that our model was not sustainable.

We came to a crisis point a few years ago. The negative voices thundered in my head and I began to cave in and doubt the vision that I had believed came from God. I almost quit. I almost gave in to shutting down the business. At about that time Jennifer Roemhildt Tunehag[3] came through with encouraging news about the launching of the Freedom Business Alliance[4] and instilled some hope back in me.

Around the same time, God gave me a vivid dream that was a clear warning against aborting the vision. I decided to take a stand and rather than give up we did some re-structuring to save a failing business. That restructuring began to turn things around.

Freedom businesses are hard.

Recently my family was returning from vacation at the beach when my 6 year old daughter asked, “How do you get a hotel?” Wow, what a loaded question. Now that I have been in business, I began to list many of the steps from planning, to investment, to design, to construction, interior decorating, restaurant set up, menu, guest services, staffing, and marketing.

By the time I was done listing I concluded that it is a huge project that involves a lot of work. My daughter was not anywhere near as overwhelmed as I was and announced, “I am going to have a hotel.” What was it that made her decide she wanted a hotel? It was her positive experience. She had made the connection albeit naïve, that having a hotel could give people, including herself, a positive experience. She had a dream.

I had a dream of a business that would employ survivors and give them a positive experience. I really had no idea what I was really getting into, but I had a dream and in spite of the challenges I was not going to give up.

Since 2005 we have seen 175 women come through the holistic employment program of NLD and NLF. The women are employed in an environment of faith, hope, and love that they have never experienced before.

One of my heart stories that drives me is a woman I met when she was still in prostitution. She told me that sometimes she did not know if she was still a human being so she cut herself. She said if she saw blood and felt pain she knew she was still alive, still human. When she started making jewelry at NightLight she said to me, “Annie, I used to catch myself with my head low because I was so ashamed of who I was and what I was doing. Now I catch myself with my head up high because I am proud of what I am doing.”

Today that same woman is on staff managing the materials department. She teaches new women and expat groups how to make jewelry. She now has power of choice in her life and she is choosing to make an impact in her community.

Freedom businesses are about the business of restoring that hope, of restoring the power to choose, of redeeming the value of life, and the ability to make money for good and positive impact. Freedom businesses give people the chance to dream again, to believe in a future that has quality of life.

I believe many of you are starting out or in a stage of the dream where it feels hard and honestly when we hear the presentations of some of the very successful businesses it can feel overwhelming. We wonder how we will ever get to that measure of success. We wonder sometimes if we can legitimately call ourselves a business in comparison. We resonate with Kerry’s[5] description of heart-driven decisions. But honestly, none of us here are only heart people. We all have a little of the brain at least. And brains, you all have at least some heart. Otherwise none of us would be here at this forum.

The Freedom Business Alliance is in fact an intersection of the two. If we were all heart, we would be content just working at a soup kitchen or a relief agency. If we were all brain we would probably be doing business completely oblivious to the crying demands of survivors. All of us are here because we either have big hearts with growing business brains, or big business brains with growing or enlightened hearts. We all dream of a world where business has a great social impact and provides jobs, freedom, choice, and quality of life to survivors, their families, and their communities.

Langston Hughes wrote, “Hold fast to your dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” The women we encounter in the sex industry are broken-winged birds who cannot fly, birds caught in cages, bought and sold and with each sell they lose sight of themselves and their dreams.

  • Freedom businesses open up the cage doors and bring the broken-winged into a place of security, of love, of healing, and of hope.
  • Freedom businesses give women back their dreams and through freedom businesses women are given back their ability to fly. Hold fast to your dreams!
  • Freedom business founders and leaders, hold fast to your dreams! I cannot promise it will be easy, but with each bird, each woman, who flies again, we forget the costs, the labor, the sacrifice, and we celebrate life and freedom.

Keynote address at the Freedom Business Forum [7], Chiang Mai, Thailand 

Delivered August 23, 2017 by Annie Dieselberg, NightLight [6]

Annie’s bio:  Working with women in prostitution since 2000, Annie began NightLight in 2005 to provide prevention, intervention, and holistic restoration to women at risk or escaping sexual exploitation.  Annie has a passion to see women and children freed from the sexual exploitation of prostitution and trafficking, to see their lives transformed holistically, and to see the global church and community working together to free, heal, and restore all who have been broken and wounded through the sex trade.

Annie’s story has been featured in the book, Not For Sale, by David Batstone, and the documentary, Furious Love, by Darren Wilson.

****

Notes added by Mats Tunehag / MatsTunehag.com

[1] See http://bamglobal.org/ and http://businessasmission.com/

[2] See BAM Global Think Tank Report: “A Business Takeover: Combating the Business of the Sex Trade with Business as Mission.” http://www.matstunehag.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/BMTT-IG-BAM-and-Human-Trafficking-Final-Report-October-2013.pdf

[3] Jennifer & Mats Tunehag visited Annie in Bangkok in February 2015

[4] http://www.freedombusinessalliance.com/

[5] Kerry Hilton also spoke at the Freedom Business Forum. He runs a freedom business: http://freesetglobal.com/

[6] http://www.nightlightinternational.com/

[7] http://www.freedombusinessalliance.com/forum

Mats TunehagMats Tunehag has been speaking, writing and convening on business as mission for 20 years. He is the Senior Associate on Business as Mission for both the Lausanne Movement and World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission. He is the co-editor of the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission and currently the co-chair of BAM Global. He also serves with a global investment fund based on Christian values that helps SMEs to grow in size, profitability and holistic impact in the Arab world and Asia. Visit MatsTunehag.com for more resources from Mats.