If you’ve been cooped up inside due to weather or COVID, you have probably seen a fair bit of football on television, along with a lot of high-priced advertising. Both will reach their apex on Super Bowl Sunday. A ubiquitous ad this season features Matt Damon touting how “Fortune favors the brave” in an ad for crypto.com. I’d urge us to think of another fact when we see this ad: “Trafficking preys on the vulnerable.”
So when you see the ad this weekend, remember that Matt Damon also advocates strongly against food insecurity and for water stewardship. Remember, too, as Damon says in the ad, “History is filled with almosts.” With this glaring exception, his body of work almost gets it right.
Findings from NYTS indicate that in 2019, approximately half of high school students (53.3%) and one in four middle school students (24.3%) had ever used a tobacco product. Furthermore, approximately three in 10 high school students (31.2%) and approximately one in eight middle school students (12.5%) had used a tobacco product during the past 30 days
Alongside this news, please, remember that the NYTS follows Wednesday’s update (Dec. 4) that identifies 2,291 cases of hospitalized e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) reported to CDC from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 2 U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands). Further, another forty-eight deaths have been confirmed in 25 states and the District of Columbia.
Shareholders, too have a critical role to play. Recently, we have written about SGI’s commitment to continue this work that originated decades ago with Fr. Mike Crosby, O.F.M., Cap. For instance, today is the filing deadline for two resolutions at Altria Group, Inc. One resolution concerns greater transparency regarding Altria’s lobbying efforts, and the other calls upon Altria to review corporate adherence to Altria’s principles and policies aimed at discouraging the use of their nicotine delivery products to young people and to report to shareholders. Both of these resolutions deserve broad support from shareholders.
The Trafficking in Persons Report, or TIP Report, is an annual report issued by the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. The TIP Report ranks governments based on their perceived efforts to acknowledge and combat human trafficking. Thursday, June 20th, the 2019 edition was issued.
The report categorizes countries of the world with regard to their adherence to the standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000. Each country is tiered according to compliance:
Tier 1 (those governments who fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards)
Tier 2 (while not fully complying, governments with significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards)
Tier 2 watch list (not fully complying along with a significant absolute number of trafficking victims, or a failure to increase efforts, or a determination that the country is in fact committed to making significant progress in the coming year)
Tier 3 (those governments who do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so)
Special cases (countries where a civil or humanitarian crisis makes gaining information difficult).
Remember that tier 1, which includes the United States, is simply compliance with the minimum standards. A tier 3 designation means that the U.S. can restrict assistance or withdraw support for the country at global funding organizations like the International Monetary Fund. Some regard the tier 2 watch list with suspicion as some determinations have suggested a reward to governments allied with the U.S. who otherwise would be in tier 3.
The report intends to offer “homework” to governments based on their tier. The image below lists the countries of the tier 2 watch list, tier 3, and special case categories. The report includes a country by country analysis of human trafficking.
I don’t want companies to avoid sourcing from these countries: I prefer companies to promote improved standards and conditions in those countries. Even if the governmental authorities do not adhere to a recognized global minimum, companies have a responsibility to act responsibly, to act in accord with the protection of human rights. A company, working in those countries, must take extra steps to reduce human trafficking and to care for the victims of trafficking in their supply chains.
The resolutions that SGI members introduced at Kraft Heinz, Macy’s, TJX, and Wendy’s aimed to do just that. We asked those companies to do a human rights impact assessment, to look through their supply chains at the most vulnerable workers. They then would mitigate the human rights abuses and remedy those workers whose rights were violated. Over time, those learnings are compiled and integrated into the ongoing processes of the company to insure greater adherence to human rights in their supply chain.
Now for some personal homework. I would recommend printing off the image above. Perhaps, you may want to laminate it to carry it with you.
When going to bed this evening, take a look at the countries of origin for the clothing you have worn. I’d be willing to bet that much of your clothing comes from a country listed above. Many of the electronic items that we use daily have supply chains woven through these countries. I bring that to your attention, kind reader, not to shame you or make you feel guilty, but, in the hopes, that we might see– along with the companies who provide us those products– that we have real power to change the situation in those countries.
Recently, researchers from the Institute for Policy Studies refined the statistics to reflect the U.S. alone. Their conclusions were eyebrow raising:
It can be hard to grasp just how much money is concentrated in just a few hands in our lopsided economy today. But here’s a start: The richest three people in the United States — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — together have more wealth than the entire bottom half of the country combined.
To put an even finer point on it: That’s three people versus about 160 million people.
To really comprehend just how insane the wealth concentration has become, consider Bezos, the head of Amazon. Worth about $90 billion, he recently was declared the richest man in the world. In October alone, his wealth jumped by $10 billion — or about $4 million per second.
The authors made a particular point that the wealthiest of the group, Jeff Bezos, pays some of his warehouse workers as little as $12.84 an hour.