10 Facts about Human Trafficking in Brazil

Brazil has a long history of human trafficking dating back to the 1400s. Slavery was legal in the region until 1888, the year Brazil officially abolished slavery. Even 130 years later, human trafficking still remains rampant as thousands of Brazilians are used for forced labor or prostitution every year. Here are nine facts about human trafficking in Brazil.

9 Facts about Human Trafficking in Brazil

  1. Brazil is considered a “source, transit, and destination country” for human trafficking. Source countries provide traffickers with the human capital they need. Transit countries help move victims from one country to another and destination countries are where trafficked humans arrive and are exploited the most.
  2. In 2004, Brazil’s government created a list of companies that were involved in slave labor and blocked those companies from receiving state loans. The list is effective at dissuading businesses from using slave labor and human trafficking. For example, Cosan appeared on the list in 2009 which led to a decrease in the business’ stock value and also caused Walmart to end business relations with the company as well.
  3. In 2017, the U.S. Department of State ranked Brazil as a “Tier 2” country, which means that human trafficking is still a significant issue despite the government’s efforts to eliminate it. Countries receive a new ranking every year depending on how well it complies with international standards. If Brazil wants to fully comply with international standards, it will need to increase its efforts of reporting human trafficking and caring for victims.
  4. Tourists from the U.S. and Europe come to Brazil for child sex tourism which is often located near the “resort and coastal areas”. Although law enforcement cooperation and information sharing with foreign governments have increased to try and combat the problem, the Brazilian government is not doing enough as there were no “investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists in 2017”.
  5. In 2016, a minimum of 369,000 people in Brazil lived “in conditions of modern slavery”. Modern slavery consists of anyone who is forced to work against their will. Modern slavery also includes adults and children who are treated like property and who cannot escape from their owners.
  6. To change the nation’s view of slavery, Brazil is creating television programs and documentaries that highlight the problem of human trafficking. The funds to create these films are seized from human traffickers by judges and prosecutors and are then given towards anti-slavery screenplays intended for schools, labor unions or regions where slavery is still widespread.
  7. Debt bondage is often used to keep Brazilian slave laborers from leaving. Debt bondage refers to a slave having to use their services to pay back a debt to their owner. Often times, the debt is almost impossible to pay back.
  8. When Brazil hosted the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, sexual exploitation of adults and children increased. It is common for global sporting events to lead to an increase in sexual exploitation. Traffickers are lured to these events due to the influx of workers needed to construct stadiums and the rise in tourism during the games. For example, in 2016, eight teenage girls were rescued from a sex trafficking ring located next to Brazil’s Olympic hub.
  9. In 2016, Brazil passed Law 13.344/16 which aims to prevent human trafficking and severely punish perpetrators. The law intends to prevent future human trafficking by creating a database of past offenders and by raising the penalties for those who are caught. The law also outlines provisions for providing assistance to victims of human trafficking.

There are reasons to remain hopeful as the Brazilian government is working hard to combat human trafficking in Brazil. For example, the government recently created a second list that will be used to publicly shame and denounce companies that use slave labor or human trafficking. Furthermore, one of the best ways to combat human trafficking is to reach out to local, regional or national government representatives and urge them to support legislation fighting against international human trafficking. Human trafficking is an immense issue that cannot be solved without the help of powerful government agencies.


– Nick Umlauf
Photo: Flickr

Hurricane Dorian
On September 1, 2019, hurricane conditions emerged within some of the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. A mere few hours later, the conditions developed into a Category 5 storm named Hurricane Dorian with winds from 185 up to 220 mph, leaving massive amounts of chaos and destruction in its wake. The storm tore houses and buildings from their foundations as if they were cardboard and glue, leaving most of the citizens in the northwestern region of the island displaced and looking for shelter. The disaster also killed at least 50 people and many expect that number to rise as more bodies turn up. Reports state there are 2,500 people missing.

People classify hurricane Dorian as the joint strongest Atlantic storm to ever hit land. Many companies in the United States have made contributions to help the relief efforts, in addition to repairing some of the devastations in the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahamas.

Six Companies Donating to Hurricane Dorian Relief in the Bahamas

  1. Disney: The Walt Disney Company announced on September 3, 2019, two days after the hurricane struck, that it would give $1 million dollars in efforts to help alleviate some of the devastations. The Disney Cruise Line led the donation with its president, Jeff Vahle, releasing a statement saying, “The Bahamas is such a special place to us and our guests, and we have watched the devastation created by Hurricane Dorian with concern and heartache.”

  2. Lowe’s: The Lowe’s Emergency Command Center took action in the midst of the disaster on August 29, 2019. It set up a core team of people working tirelessly to send medical supplies to areas that the hurricane impacted. The company has also committed to sending a $1 million donation to the Bahamian Red Cross. 

  3. Verizon: The Verizon company waived all unlimited talk, text and data usage for its customers in the areas that suffered destruction from the storm in the Bahamas. People in this area received waived service from September 2, 2019, through September 9, 2019.                               

  4. Coca-Cola: The Coca-Cola Foundation announced a $400,000 grant to the Salvation Army in order to send immediate help to those the devastation of Hurricane Dorian affected in the Bahamas. Furthermore, Coca-Cola Puerto Rico Bottling and other CC1 Companies are lending a helping hand to the Coca-Cola Bottler in the Bahamas by organizing donations and supply drives with the help of the Puerto Rican business communities.

  5. Walmart: Walmart, and Sam’s Club pledged up to $500,000 in cash and in kind donations for the country’s recovery. The money that they committed will go to the organizations working directly with those impacted by the disaster. Walmart is also working very closely with government entities and local officials to alleviate the needs of the citizens.

  6. Amazon: In partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Mercy Corps and the Grand Bahama Disaster Relief Foundation, the Disaster Relief by Amazon team is sending two Amazon Air flights full of supplies to the areas Hurricane Dorian impacted. The planes will contain tarps, buckets and water containers. Amazon has also launched a wish list campaign, specifically created for nonprofit partners, for customers to donate materials to aboard the plane by September 13, 2019.

These six largely successful companies have made monumental efforts to alleviate some of the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian and give back to communities that lost so much. Rebuilding the communities will likely take years, but these donations are a wonderful starting point.

– Joanna Buoniconti
Photo: Flickr

Ecommerce in India
With Walmart’s recently announced acquisition of Flipkart, India’s largest online retailer, the U.S. retail multinational has placed a substantial bet on the future of ecommerce in India and the country’s economic potential.

Confirmed in recent weeks, Walmart’s purchase of almost 80 percent ownership of Flipkart represents the largest single foreign direct investment transaction in the country’s history. Although ecommerce represents a small portion of total retail sales in India, companies like Walmart are betting that a burgeoning middle class and greater access to technology offer the potential for a sizable market.

Indeed, the more bullish analysts predict an ecommerce boom in the country. U.S. investment bank Morgan Stanley estimates that online retail sales in India could grow by more than 1,200 percent, from $15 billion in 2016 to $200 billion in 2026. These numbers would trail the world leaders in online retail sales such as China ($1.1 trillion in 2017) and the U.S. ($453 billion) but would already put India among the largest ecommerce markets in the world and unmatched in the rest of the world in terms of potential size.

Forecasts include burgeoning internet usage and lower data access costs in the country, which will broaden the accessibility of online retailers. Optimism also stems from size and growth of the Indian economy: its population is 1.3 billion, the second-highest behind China, with a young demographic profile and GDP growth of 7.2 percent in 2017. This represented the fastest rate among all major economies. It is also hoped that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be successful in implementing economic reforms to ease the cost of doing business, including for foreign investors, in the coming years.

Walmart is not alone in betting on the potential of ecommerce in India. Amazon entered the market in 2013 in an attempt to challenge Flipkart’s success and has steadily gained ground. Alibaba, the Chinese ecommerce giant, first made inroads into the space in 2015 by investing in Paytm, a financial technology startup, and has since continued to expand its investment into other ecommerce groups.

Some observers are more tepid about India’s potential. GDP per capita remains low compared to other major economies; at approximately $1,700 in 2016, it is roughly one-fourth that of China. Moreover, the wealth of 80 percent of the population falls below that number, reflecting the country’s problem with income inequality, with the richest segment of the population holding an outsized share of the wealth.

In fact, despite proclamations heralding the arrival of India’s massive middle class, a 2015 Pew survey found that the country’s progress in poverty alleviation has largely moved its population from poor to low-income earners. This leaves them dangerously close to re-entering poverty with such limited disposable income.

Outlooks vary, but the commitments to the country by some of the world’s major online retailers represent their belief in its likely transformation and growing earning potential. As some experts have noted, the acquisition by Walmart and its competitors represents a long-term bet that India could be on the cusp of the consumption explosion China saw earlier this century. If their bets on ecommerce in India pay off, it will likely be because it coincides with rising prosperity and economic security for Indians as a whole.

– Mark Fitzpatrick
Photo: Flickr

charitable companies
Corporations and charities aren’t two ideas that necessarily go hand in hand. Corporations generally exist to make money; charities give it away (or use it to give away items or resources to people in need). However, some companies do freely give their profits to charities, showing that even the corporations that make the biggest profits are also invested in people who make the least. Here are the five most charitable companies.

1. Kroger

The biggest grocery store chain in America is also one of its most charitable companies, in terms of percentage of profits. In 2010, Kroger donated more than 10 percent of its overall profits – approximately $64 million – to charities at both local and national levels. Kroger’s charitable endeavors include not only donations, but also employee volunteering efforts programs and participation in programs to feed the hungry. Kroger’s store loyalty card-holders can also choose local charities to which they would like a portion of their bill to be donated, allowing communities to rally around local causes.

2. Macy’s

Charity may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a company that sponsors showy events like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but this department store actually gives a significant amount of its profits to charities around the country. Macy’s consistently gives approximately $40 million annually to charitable organizations, and encourages its customers to give back around the holidays with its “Thanks for Sharing” campaign.

3. Walmart

Walmart giving does not total much of its overall profits (less than 1.5 percent, actually), but because this corporation is such a behemoth, its charitable donations, dollar for dollar, are more than almost any other company in the world – it was knocked down to #2 in 2013 by Wells Fargo. Walmart donates over $300 million per year to charity. The company also donates significant amounts of food to charities and hunger-prevention programs.

4. Goldman Sachs

Another surprising company that ranks high on the corporate giving list is Goldman Sachs. Despite its alleged role in causing the recession of 2008, Goldman actually works in some ways to prevent poverty by donating millions to charity. In fact, during a time period in which its own profits dropped by 35 percent, Goldman increased its charitable giving by a whopping 300 percent, bringing them to $315 million total. Though the company has been accused of using charitable donations to bolster their image after the fiscal crisis, the fact remains that few companies have donated more than Goldman.

5. Target

Target makes the top 10 charitable corporations list, with its donations coming in at five percent of total profits. Target’s employees are some of the most generous with their time as well, as Target runs a substantial employee service program. Target’s goal is to transform for the better every community with a Target store, and by giving to charities that support education, hunger prevention and public safety, they’re doing just that.

Elise L. Riley

Sources: Forbes, Business Insider
Photo: CrainsNY

slave labor
A recent investigation by the Guardian in Southeast Asia has shed light on one of the darkest practices in the world: slave labor. Human trafficking of forced workers is far from something of the past and this sobering discovery shows just how close to home it gets.

Thailand is the largest prawn exporter in the world, shipping out 500,000 tons of shrimp annually in an estimated $7.3 billion industry. Ten percent of the supply comes from Chareon Pokphand (CP) Foods.

The goods are distributed to a handful of major international grocery retailers whose names are commonplace in Western households. The list of recipients includes huge outlets like Costco and Walmart in the United States and Carrefour and Tesco in Britain as well as a few additional European chains.

A six-month investigation by the Guardian revealed that slave labor fuels a majority of CP Food’s shrimp business through a chain of resource suppliers. The prawns themselves are grown in farms, but the source of the fishmeal that feeds the animals is linked to forced labor under inhumane conditions.

The fishmeal is produced by suppliers that own or buy the seafood byproduct from slave-manned ships and sold to CP Foods. Interviews with escaped slaves took investigators deep into the workings of the fishmeal trade which operates on illegal terms in international waters off the Thai coast.

The escapees report being forced to work 20 hour shifts at a time with no pay. The men were kept in chains and offered methamphetamines to keep them working through fatigue. They endured regular beatings, public-style executions and extreme torture which often led to death.

One of the most gruesome tales of execution involved a slave laborer whose limbs were tied to the bows of four boats and then pulled apart.

This is not the first time attention has been brought to the conditions of sea vessel workers in Thailand. Non-government Organizations and the U.N. have raised alarm multiple times over the past four years about the presence of slave labor in the country. There are currently 500,000 forced workers in Thailand according to the Thai government itself, with 300,000 in the fishing industry alone.

Thai brokers supply the majority of the workforce, 90 percent of which is made up of duped migrants from countries such as Cambodia and Burma. The immigrants pay the brokers to help them find work and are instead sold into slavery for as low as $420.

An anonymous government worker in Thailand told the Guardian that government officials are tied up with the Thai mafia in the human trafficking business and are reluctant to take preventative action. While the retail giants each take a different approach to their own investigations and negotiations, human rights groups and even CP Foods are calling for consumers to force action by boycotting prawns from the suppliers.

Slavery is illegal in every country in the world but 21 million men, women and children are enslaved globally according to the International Labor Organization. Thailand runs the risk of standing with North Korea and Iran at a tier 3 grade, the lowest U.S. ranking on the human trafficking index.

 — Edward Heinrich

Sources: The Guardian, Gawker, CBS News
Photo: Flickr

Walmart Failing India Russia Asia
Walmart has sales reaching over $135 billion in 26 countries outside the United States making it the world’s biggest retailer. It’s also the world’s largest public corporation when ranked by revenue.

It has shattered the expectations of many small businesses that have either opened in a Walmart’s vicinity or have had a Walmart take over the local community. It’s a seemingly unstoppable force in the retail business. But looking abroad to several of the world’s largest economically sound countries, not a single Walmart store can be found.

On October 9, 2013, Walmart announced that it was breaking up its corporate partnership with Bharti Enterprises, which hints to the dissolving of its vision of opening up hundreds of stores throughout India. Scott Price, head of Walmart Asia, referred to the breakup being fueled by “poor investment conditions.”

This is a deeper issue than pro-small business owners and supporters celebrating over this breakup. When an individual, group, or corporation ascends to the heights that Walmart has in its respective niche, competition has no choice but either to compete and take a tiny share of the market or to hope that the empire crumbles.

While this decision by no means points to Walmart losing its stranglehold on the retail market, it sends a sign to most investors looking to put money in Southeast Asia. If Walmart is backing out and cannot make a steep, yet potentially rewarding investment, how can others?

Russia is another market Walmart has not tapped. For six years, Walmart has been in talks with a Russian-based company to join a partnership that would ease Walmart’s entry into the bureaucratically strict nation. Germany and South Korea are without Walmart stores, as well. Walmart was present in both nations until 2006 when it shut down all operating stores.

For Germany, it was a rather strange issue that possibly stems from cultural and sexual repression. German men did not like when Walmart clerks handed their groceries to them and smiled as they were leaving the store. They believed the friendliness was a sign of flirting which made them uncomfortable. South Korea has also found it hard to house a Walmart chain, as it preferred to stock electronics and clothing as opposed to food and beverages, which can be bought at local markets.

This is not a loss for Walmart as much as it is a rattling in its marketing process. This shake up abroad almost seems like collusion between governments not wanting to take away domestic profits from local businesses, and can anyone blame them?

– Sagar Jay Patel

Sources: Business Week, New York Times

Some big-name companies and corporations gave large donations last year to assist in the fight against poverty. According to a U.S. study in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, corporate philanthropy actually increased by 2.7 percent in 2012, contributing significantly to poverty reduction initiatives worldwide. Big businesses decided to give and, most importantly, give more. Of the businesses that made up the majority, the most influential of those in terms of global poverty were Walmart, Chevron Corporation, Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil, and JPMorgan Chase & Company.

Walmart is one of the top ten companies that give the most charitable donations. Walmart donated $311,607,280 in cash and $755,868,381 in products to 50,000 different charities in 2012. Since the creation of their “Fighting Hunger Together” campaign in 2010, the company has given away over 1 billion pounds of food to people in need. They have partnered with Feeding America, ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Kraft Foods, and Unilever to provide meals to these people. Their Golden Spark campaign also assisted in this effort. Through October 14, 2012, Walmart randomly awarded 40 “Golden Sparks” valued at $50,000 each to consumers who participated in the Fighting Hunger Together Golden Spark promotion. The winners chose a community to receive the funding to start or expand a backpack program that provides vital meals to food-insecure children during weekends when they do not have access to free and reduced-price school meals.

Chevron Corporation gave $262,430,000 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The corporation’s largest grant last year was $11 million to the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative Foundation. This donation went towards fighting poverty in Nigeria through increasing local incomes, employment opportunities, and promoting economic health.

Goldman Sachs gave $241,278,912 overall last year. Its biggest contribution to the fight against global poverty has been its creation of the 10,000 Women project. This project provides women around the world with educational opportunities in areas such as business and management in order to attain independence. It also offers them access to positive mentors. Overall, the project focuses on empowering women to obtain networking and career opportunities. Women such as Linlin, who is now involved in early childhood education in Beijing, China, attest to the project’s helpfulness. “10,000 Women taught me the fundamentals of business management,” Linlin said. “It also helped me become braver and more confident.”

Exxon Mobil gave $213,374,183 in cash and $2,433,200 in products. Its grants mostly contributed to science and math education as well as career opportunities for women. It donated almost $3 million to Vital Voices Global Partnership, which supports the Business Women’s Network efforts in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. Malaria No More received $1.8 million. This corporate giving was used to expand the organization’s NightWatch program, a malaria communications platform that uses celebrity voices to reach vulnerable populations through text messaging, television, radio, and music, reminding them to put up mosquito nets. The program has gained support from celebrities, leaders, businesses, and even endorsement from the Ministry of Health. It has empowered families to keep themselves safe from the threat of malaria by ensuring education is present in places such as Tanzania and Cameroon.

JP Morgan Chase & Company gave $183,471,434 overall last year. Specifically, it donated $2,180,000 to GAVI Alliance to improve global access to immunizations. A triumphant success story regarding the foundation’s donation can be viewed here: Donation Supports Roll Out of Two Vaccines in Ghana. These pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines are meant to combat pneumonia and diarrhea – illnesses that account for 20% of Ghana’s child mortality rate.

– Samantha Davis

Sources: Chronicle of Philanthropy, Walmart, Chevron, Niger Delta Partnership Initiative Foundation, Niger Delta Partnership Initiative Foundation, Goldman Sachs,, NightWatch Program, GAVI Alliance

The recent collapse Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh that left 1,129 people dead called attention to the inhumane conditions that garment workers work in. LaborVoices, a for-profit startup, is providing a clear view into factories worldwide, through the eyes of the workers.

Major corporations spend billions on auditing companies to inspect the factories that make their products, ensuring that working conditions are up to par. However, factory owners are often very clever about making their factories look good for the auditors, then going back to business as usual. According to a report by the Clean Clothes Campaign, tactics include sending less compliant workers home, and making only cheap superficial changes. One report from an accredited factory found that “all the twenty-one workers interviewed … said that no improvements had been made in the health and safety situation in the factory since they joined the factory.” The Rana Plaza factory was audited, but the structural integrity of the building itself was overlooked.

LaborVoices provides companies with additional oversight from the inside, to ensure that disastrous scandals do not tarnish their brand image. Workers get to voice their grievances to the corporation anonymously with a phone call or text message. Walmart has recently partnered with LaborVoices, and is now hearing feedback from workers in their factories in Bangladesh. The information provided will help Walmart choose better suppliers to make their products.

Corporations are not the sole beneficiaries of LaborVoices’ services. The information is publicized so that consumers can make ethical choices when they decide where to shop. Would be workers can also read the reviews, to avoid working at inhumane factories. LaborVoices is helping to make working conditions in global factories more transparent, thus making high standards a valuable commodity.

– Jennifer Bills 

Sources: Coexist, Clean Clothes Campaign, Labor Voices, Sustainable Brand News
Photo: Huffington Post

In the wake of the recent garment factory tragedy in Bangladesh, some high-profile retailers have signed an agreement to fund safety renovations on their factories there. Bangladeshi factories have a history of hazardous conditions. Workers are often willing or forced to work in obviously dangerous circumstances. The factory buildings can be unstable, usually resulting from illegal additions, and workers are often overcrowded and underpaid. The minimum wage in Bangladesh is roughly $38 dollars per month. However, most workers’ gratitude for the work is more powerful than their fear of the working conditions.

In November 2012, a fire in a Bangladeshi clothing factory killed 112 people. Although the multi-story factory employed 1,700 people, it was not equipped with any fire escapes. The factory had received a “high risk” safety rating in May 2011 and a “medium risk” rating in August 2011. The large conglomerate that owned the factory had a wide-reaching market. It sold to Walmart and IKEA, and exported to the U.S., Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands.

Although this fire was tragic, recent events in Bangladesh have understandably garnered much more attention and outrage. The garment factory building collapse on April 24th, 2013 claimed 1,127 lives. Authorities claim that the building owner added on to the factory illegally, so the structure was not as stable as it should have been. The owner also housed heavy equipment on upper levels, compounding the problem. Workers had seen a crack in the building and many had refused to come to work the day before the collapse. However, they had been forced to resume work as usual the next day. In what is considered a direct reaction to the tragedy, the Bangladeshi government recently decided to allow trade unions for garment works and appointed a committee to discuss raising the minimum wage. While these changes are a step in the right direction, their effectiveness is still in question. Companies can still fire workers for unionizing, and unsafe factory additions are clearly happening, even though there are safety regulations in place.

The recent tragedy in Bangladesh has resurrected ethical questions surrounding first-world clothing companies’ use of Bangladeshi workers as cheap labor. Labor rights activists have attempted to persuade some of these first-world companies to take action by covering the costs of improving safety conditions in the factories they do business with. Recently, two of these companies, H&M and Inditex, have done so by signing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. This agreement states that retailers must pay for all necessary safety renovations to factories, which will be subject to independent inspections made available to the public. These companies have agreed not to work with any factory that resists essential building changes. Under the contract, workers are also granted the right to refuse to enter a building they deem unsafe.

This agreement is seen as a major step forward for the movement, as H&M is the chief manufacturer of clothing in Bangladesh and Inditex is the leading fashion apparel company in the world. PVH, the owner of Tommy Hilfiger, already agreed to these terms last year, and other agreements are in the works with Gap, Wal-Mart, and Benetton.

Katie Fullerton

Sources: ABC, NBC, Huffington Post