By Adela Suliman
LONDON, Sept 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Human trafficking is pervasive in global industries particularly in manufacturing sectors such as textiles, but efforts by corporations to be socially responsible are starting to have an impact, a report found on Tuesday.
The EcoVadis Global CSR Risk and Performance Index evaluates the corporate social responsibility (CSR) of more than 20,400 companies in 2016.
The annual index found human trafficking and forced labour were common in lower value manufacturing sectors where few skills were required, such as farming and transportation.
Companies were making more robust efforts to ensure their supply chains were clean of trafficking and forced labour - but with room for improvement, said EcoVadis.
"We're observing many companies, across all markets, making crucial year-over-year improvements to CSR performance," said Pierre-Francois Thaler, co-founder of EcoVadis.
"The criticality of supply chain CSR remains extremely high, and there's a lot of room for all businesses to grow and improve."
The report found that European companies scored better for CSR compared to the Americas and Africa, Middle East and Asia.
Among the top performing industries were the small and medium food and beverage companies and construction companies. Finance, legal, consulting and advertising industries also fared well.
"The problem (forced labour) exists in every country and in every industry so its vital that business is part of the fight to eradicate it," Marilyn Croser, Director of CORE Coalition, a British civil society network on corporate accountability, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"Transparency is central," added Croser, who said too many companies were providing inadequate statements or failing to report incidents of modern slavery.
The report found better performance on tackling forced labour and trafficking among companies based in countries with strong anti-slavery laws.
Modern slavery has become a catch-all term to describe human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, sex trafficking, forced marriage and other slave-like exploitation with nearly 46 million people enslaved around the world, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index.
"Modern slavery is embedded into almost every area of our society, a hideous crime that robs millions of lives from their basic right to freedom," said a spokesman at charity Hope for Justice, which works to end modern slavery.
"We believe the corporate world has an opportunity to be a leading vehicle for change in this worldwide issue, as they tackle slavery in supply chains, provide work for survivors and raise awareness within their workforce and to their consumers."
(Reporting by Adela Suliman; editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)