Stephen Goode has been involved internationally in relief and development work for over 35 years. For the past 6 years he has served on the Board of Not For Sale. We asked him how Not For Sale is responding to the challenge of human trafficking and why they have made business a central part of their strategy.
Much of the activity around ‘business solutions to human trafficking’ has been on the side of restoration and providing jobs for those being rescued from slavery. Why has Not For Sale more recently started focusing on business solutions for the prevention of human trafficking?
Slavery exists today on a scale like no other time in history. The Global Slavery Index reports there are 35.8 million people enslaved today and the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimate that USD 150 Billion is made in illegal profits annually. The vulnerability of at-risk individuals and communities continue as key elements of modern day slavery. Traffickers come in to individuals and villages, promising any and everything and the slavery cycle of exploitation multiplies.
David Batstone, co-founder of Not For Sale asks the question, ‘What does it mean to go upstream to bring justice?’ You can watch him explain that concept succinctly here:
He says, ‘You are at the end of a river, there are children, women and men being trafficked. You are pulling those bodies out of the river. That is compassion. That is mercy. To bring justice, means, we need to walk upstream and find out why there are so many people who are falling into the river and becoming vulnerable.
‘Not For Sale works in Amsterdam with women who sell their bodies behind windows almost like a retail store. Where do these women come from? How did they get here? Not For Sale provides medical services for these women as well as nutritious soup that they can purchase. Through this interaction, we found out that more than 70% of these women come from Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, from very economically deprived areas. We also found out that they are being managed or trafficked. With that information, we are able to identify social enterprises, that is companies, that would enable them to get skills and a livelihood that would give them alternatives or a different future.
‘In Amsterdam, we started a soup company selling good, nutritious soups for retail prices, creating jobs and income. Back in Romania, we identified organic farmers that sell fruits and vegetables in these vulnerable communities and a retailer who will buy these commodities creating income and stability for these women at risk.
‘So in Not For Sale, going upstream means doing good analysis, finding out who the people are who are being trafficked and then using business and enterprise to create new futures, new opportunities and new destinies. Going upstream is what is required to solve problems and compassion and mercy get us there.’
How have you been establishing these businesses in partnership with the local community?
Here’s a great example in the Amazon region of Peru which is explained in this video about how beverage company REBBL was launched.
‘The Peruvian Amazon is one of the wealthiest, ecological areas on the planet and yet the people are some of the poorest in the world. There was something wrong with this picture. The Peruvian communities are 7 hours upriver from the nearest city. The only way to get to the city is by boat and the communities are too poor to even own a boat. They do not have resources for their sick children. Therefore, they do not have access to the marketplace and they don’t have healthy jobs in their community so traffickers come in and exploit them. It really comes down to a lack of economic opportunity through work.
‘WhenNot For Sale looked at this region, there was rich resources and people who desperately wanted to work and build a new future. We knew there had to be a solution to the problem but what would that solution be? A simple solution was to provide villagers with a boat but what happens when the boat wears out. How do we create not a charity based model but a sustainable model?
‘It meant creating jobs. That is a pretty complex process. We needed to engage the community themselves. We needed to engage local businesses that were creating products. We needed to engage international retailers like supermarkets and we needed to engage consumers to understand why it was important and why they should be buying these types of products. What we came up with was an incredible idea that would link together all of those actors together. What we came up with was REBBL.’
Four short videos share more about the story of how REBBL came about:
How do you hope the Church will respond to the injustice of human trafficking and affirm business people to get involved? How would you encourage a Christian business person who is reading about this issue?
My three brothers have been involved in business for more than four decades. One is involved in the pharmaceutical industry, another, the chemical industry and lastly the building industry. All of them consider their work as a vocational calling not just a way to earn a living. They want to see a multiple bottom line occur in their businesses including, profit, social, environmental or spiritual impact. When this happens, their passion for their vocation is elevated to another level.
One of my brothers and I met together with the Not For Sale founders a few weeks ago to talk about possibilities to impact those exploited and enslaved. The conversation was electric from the beginning because business people get this language, result and impact. Business people also want to make a change in our world. If you are reading this and see yourself in this narrative, simply ask what is the next step? What can I do? What impact can my business have on modern day slavery?
My wife, Marie and I have been serving the poor of our world for more than 35 years, from refugees in war zones to those affected by natural disasters or man made crisis, to those with little access to water, sanitation, health care or education, as well as those enslaved. We see the critical importance of the value of work, of skills training and a good livelihood. This could be the time for business to make a significant impact upon our world, particularly leading the charge to end modern day slavery with a business model and solution.