The continued growth of the Southeast Asian region is likely to bring it greater prosperity. But it is also likely to see the rise of human trafficking and other corrupt activities as labour-intensive industries demand greater production numbers, quicker and cheaper.
Kroll, which provides global risk solutions, comments in its report, Due Diligence On Supply Chains: “Despite increased efforts to combat it, human trafficking is perceived as the third-largest illicit trade globally, after the illicit trade of arms and drugs.”
The report also quotes an International Labour Organization (ILO) estimate that the human trafficking industry nets US$32 billion annually.
Ruici Tio, a recent hire as a Director at Kroll, brings his practical experience in investigating these clandestine activities in the region. Having worked with USAID in Jakarta, he followed that with a spell in Bangkok with MTV EXIT (mtvexit.org), which strives to thwart human trafficking.
MTV EXIT estimates that close to 21 million people are victims of human trafficking, and is profitable to the tune of $150 billion, almost five times the figure provided by the ILO.
Singapore-based Ruici has worked in a dozen markets in Asia, Europe and the US, facilitating partnerships between the public and private sectors around ethical and societal issues. One of the challenges he faces is the lack of accurate data on the topic, which makes it anyone’s guess as to the extent of the problem.
“Technology and big data give a bird’s eye view. But the data is only as good as the source. For companies operating in opaque places, you still need human intelligence on the ground,” Ruici explains.
Regardless, the fact is it is profitable, and those engaged in it are well aware of the grief and harm it causes to individuals, families, communities and companies.
In its due diligence report, Kroll reports that most of Southeast Asia’s emerging markets are recognised as source countries of trafficking victims, but the rapid economic growth in the region has also led to numerous markets emerging as destinations for trafficking victims. “Trafficking chains exist across a wide spectrum of business sectors and can range from highly complex global and national operations to smaller local cottage industries. The risks are particularly high in industries that are labour-intensive and rely on seasonal work. These industries include agriculture, construction, garments and textiles, fishing and seafood, and mining and logging.”
Ruici believes that the corporate social responsibility practices of organisations should kick in much earlier. “ Currently, CSR is generally an
after-thought. But organisations should understand the risks in their businesses and to mitigate them in the best ways possible. Companies cannot afford the reputational damage that they could face should any part of their supply chain be involved in illicit activity.”
Ruici Tio is a panelist in STORM’s event Keep It Going: The Next Big Thing. View more details of the event in Keep It Going 2014.
This is part of a STORM series:
The Next Big Thing — The plans are in place, the path has been plotted. Before you hit the launch button, you should ask yourself if you are doing so in a bubble. With the world increasingly interconnected, many decisions we make in business and in life are often influenced by other factors beyond what we see in our near field of vision. Sometimes, they come hurtling in like missiles from afar, out of the blue.
Look out for more stories in this series.
Malls Mauled (Aldo Lipari, Global Luxury Goods Chief Executive)
New Levels Of Existence (Er. Chong Kee Sen, President, The Institution of Engineers, Singapore)
Moving Targets And Goals (Herbert Vongpusanachai, Senior Vice President & Managing Director, DHL Express Singapore)
Shaping Our Living Spaces (Dr Stephen Riady, Chairman OUE Ltd.)
Homemade Electricity (Anand Prakash, Partner, FE Global Clean Energy Corp.)
The Digital Universe Of Opportunities (Eric Goh, Managing Director, EMC Singapore)
Data In Flight (Tom Callow, CEO OAG)
More Than Baby Steps (Tan Wee Keng, CEO Tollyjoy Baby Products Pte Ltd.)
The Rise Of The Old And Wise (Dr Tan Bee Wan)
Virtually Hailing A Cab (Jianggan Li, CEO, Easy Taxi)