Operationalizing the movement to end forced labor

A study for the Freedom from Slavery Forum 2018

Slavery is one of the world’s fastest-growing illicit activities. This study, presented at the Freedom from Slavery Forum, was co-authored pro bono by Deloitte and the Free the Slaves organization, and explores the goals, norms, and policy priorities for civil society coalitions within the anti-slavery movement. It also proposes solutions to some common challenges.

Why operationalizing civil society around SDG 8.7 matters now

Modern slavery poses a complex, dynamic, and immense global social challenge. It nets an estimated $150 billion in profits for perpetrators each year while exploiting millions of economically vulnerable men, women, and children across the globe. In 2015, heads of state from around the world met at the United Nations to develop a group of 17 goals related to sustainable development. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8.7 calls for the eradication of forced labor, modern slavery, and human trafficking.

Civil society has assumed a critical role in raising awareness about the vastness of the slavery problem, advocating with governments to take robust action and developing new interventions to disrupt slavery and aid its survivors. A shared agenda that unifies the global civil society community could cultivate a powerful force for change in support of SDG 8.7. Through meaningful collective action, we have the opportunity to become the first in history to abolish slavery once and for all.

To assess the challenges faced by civil society coalitions that are working to fight human trafficking, Deloitte, in partnership with the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Free the Slaves, conducted an in-depth study and presented the results at the 2018 Freedom from Slavery Forum in Bangkok.

Study findings

The study results highlight goals, norms, and policy priorities across civil society coalitions within the anti-slavery movement as perceived by the coalition leaders who participated in the study. Findings include key factors that respondents deemed most important for each of the four societal sectors identified as major players in the anti-slavery space: civil society, government, business, and trade unions.

Civil society
The Deloitte/Free the Slaves study revealed that although coalition leaders regard partnership and sharing among NGOs as an important goal, several factors impacted effective collaboration, including lack of information sharing about prevention efforts, the need for additional research, existing competition between coalitions for limited resources, and limited survivor leadership and voice.

Respondents called for a national plan of action against slavery, addressing the vulnerability of at-risk populations, accountability for perpetrators, and better resource allocation, among other priorities. An increased partnership among anti-slavery NGOs can lead to stronger advocacy for government action, including anti-slavery legislation and enforcement, cultural change, and better distribution of resources, all of which will support SDG 8.7.

Survey participants pointed to several principles and goals that they considered priorities for businesses to advance. These included compliance with anti-slavery laws and policies, implementation of policies and practices against human trafficking and forced labor, transparency in supply chains, and respect for labor rights.

Trade unions
Trade unions promote and defend workers’ rights primarily through collective bargaining for more favorable working conditions and other benefits. But our study results indicate that, despite their worker-centric mission and reach, respondents felt that trade unions were only moderately effective at implementing the actions required to advance the goal of SDG 8.7. Respondents called for trade unions to identify and document cases of forced labor, raise awareness among union members and other audiences of the pervasiveness of slavery and promote relevant International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions.


Supporting SDG 8.7 through a global coalition approach

One objective of this study was to surface and aggregate the needs and priorities of anti-slavery NGOs and coalitions. Respondents offered a number of potential solutions for challenges typically experienced by organizations working in the anti-slavery space. By and large, these solutions reflect the fundamental value proposition of the anti-slavery coalitions in support of SDG 8.7 and beyond—namely that creating a space for collaboration, cooperation, and knowledge sharing can enhance overall impact.

The anti-slavery community has a significant opportunity to alleviate some of the major challenges experienced by NGOs and civil society through such solutions as:

  • Extending limited resources by creating economies of scale through shared services models
  • Maximizing learning and demonstrating value through collective measures of impact
  • Driving local, grassroots change by targeting both small, growing businesses and major brands
  • Strengthening credibility and effectiveness of interventions and policies by putting survivors at the core of activities

To learn more about how these solutions can work in practice, download “Operationalizing the movement behind SDG 8.7: A study for the Freedom of Slavery Forum 2018.”

green globe

Awareness: The first step toward achieving the goals of SDG 8.7

While there are many steps that NGOs can and should take on their own, there’s also an essential role for entities in other sectors in support of NGO coalition-building. In fact, there’s a shared interest among many governments, businesses, and workers organizations in eradicating slavery. Achieving SDG 8.7 will require more focused and unified efforts between civil society and the other three sectors: government, business, and trade unions.

With nearly 3,000 anti-slavery organizations worldwide, the number of interested parties doesn’t seem to be an issue. But coordination between those organizations can be a challenge. If awareness is the first step toward change, the findings and considerations presented in the Deloitte/Free the Slaves report and discussed at the Freedom from Slavery Forum can help stakeholders across the anti-slavery movement understand the challenges the movement faces—as well as the opportunities for overcoming them.

Together with Free the Slaves, Deloitte would like to thank the research and support team who provided invaluable insights, support, and feedback at the many phases of this collaborative effort. Special thanks to Maurice Middleberg, Allie Gardner, Madeline de Figueiredo, Rebecca Lady, Anesa “Nes” Parker, Alex Haseley, Caroline Ackerson, Caitlin Ryan, Nahal Jalali-Farahani, Andrea Forster, Amy Coppernoll, Alan Kinsella, and Luciana Carneiro.

green globe

Get in touch

Rebecca Israel Lady
Managing Director
Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory
Federal Strategic Risk Services
Deloitte & Touche LLP
+1 703 725 6353

Sean Morris
Government and Public Services
Human Capital Leader
Deloitte Consulting LLP
+1 571 814 7640

mail icon
Did you find this useful?