Delta, UPS, Coke tackle human trafficking issue

Credit: AJC

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Our area ranks 14th in the nation for human trafficking.

Credit: AJC

Some of Atlanta's biggest companies are using different approaches to tackle the issue of human trafficking, from Delta Air Lines training flight attendants and others to recognize signs of trafficking to UPS training its drivers and Coca-Cola looking deep into its supply chain for labor issues.

At Atlanta-based Delta, 54,000 employees have done online training on how to be alert to possible trafficking on flights and in airports. The company aims to get the rest of its workforce of 80,000 trained over the next 12 months, said Delta senior vice president of in-flight service Allison Ausband at an anti-human trafficking business summit organized Wednesday by Ted Blum, head of the Rotary Club of Atlanta anti-human trafficking task force and managing shareholder of the Atlanta office of Greenberg Traurig.

Ausband said airline passengers' donations of SkyMiles to anti-trafficking organization Polaris that are matched by Delta have helped to fly 56 victims to their families. Polaris runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which Delta also sponsored with $1 million, and says there are more than 20 million people affected by human trafficking globally.

Delta also plans to work with nonprofit Wellspring Living to offer an apprenticeship at its headquarters to a sex trafficking survivor.

Other metro Atlanta companies have different focuses that vary with the reach of their operations.

InterContinental Hotels Group, whose Americas office is in the Perimeter area, has since 2014 required its hotels to have a human rights policy and has developed posters to increase awareness among employees of signs of human trafficking. It has also developed a code of conduct for suppliers, and is developing new guidelines against forced labor.

Sandy Springs-based UPS works with nonprofit Truckers Against Trafficking and has trained drivers to keep an eye out for human trafficking, and is also working with Wellspring.

“I’ll be honest. It took a while for us to get this through our compliance team. They are concerned about what this looks like,” said UPS Foundation director of global employee engagement Laura Johns at the Rotary event. “People are uncomfortable when you talk about this, but you have to help them understand why.”

A trucker who was previously a police officer delivered a TED@UPS talk last year on encountering a "tattered and torn" young woman at a truck stop who he realized was being forced to work as a prostitute.

Brent Wilton, director of global workplace rights at Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, is focused on the beverage company’s vast supply chain -- including at its independent bottlers -- with sourcing from an estimated 5 million farms.

“We have to get ahead of this. Just like we have to get ahead of being accused of being generally a human rights abuser,” Wilton said at the Rotary event. “For us it’s a labor problem.” He said the company has done studies on forced labor and child labor in the sugar industry, but “we haven’t finished looking yet.”

“No one can stand up here today and say, ‘I have no forced labor in my supply chain or in my business,’ unless you can prove that you’ve looked and verified. Because we all may have it,” Wilton said.