Brian Iselin’s fight against modern slavery

Ethical Leadership in Business 2019

11/07/2019
Brian Iselin

 

Brian Iselin

The sun is slowly setting but the air is still warm as ten people form a circle to listen to Brian Iselin’s captivating story told during the human library as part of the Ethical Leadership in Business conference. He tells us how he discovered the extent of modern slavery and how he decided to fight it.

He first came into contact with human trafficking during his time as a federal agent combatting narco-trafficking. While searching for narcotics, he found two baby girls in a sports bag who were meant to be sold for adoption in Vietnam. Profoundly appalled by this discovery he shifted his priority to modern slavery and decided to take action.

But what is modern slavery? Slavery is not a new problem, the main difference today being that trafficked and abused people are not part of our society as they are not seen. Scandals such as child labour are common amongst big fashion brands but most people distance themselves and continue to buy the clothes. As Iselin says, ‘80% of what we all buy is slave tainted (…) we are talking about hundreds of millions of people’.

Two years ago, Iselin created the NGO Slavefreetrade based on his belief about customers that ‘nobody would willingly do something wrong if [they] knew that it was not right’. The aim is to show the customer what they should do instead of blaming them for doing what they should not and therefore relies on a positive message and incentive.

In practice this means that on a regular basis Slavefreetrade asks workers at every stage in a brand’s supply chain if their human rights are being resepcted. The questions include rights such as dignity, equality and child-free labour. Slavefreetrade then provides the company with access to the results so that they can address any issues. Iselin told us about one case in which the head of human resources for a big label discovered that sexual harassment was happening in a factory that he did not even know existed. With the help of this detailed information, he could do something about it.

The platform brings transparency in a sector where it formerly did not exist. The challenge is now to convince big brands to join the movement and face what is really happening in their supply chains. This will only happen by ‘bringing good actors together’.

 

Text: Nicole Walther

Photo: Paula Mariane

Featured Story
Off

related stories

Michael Akampa

Making investment work for the people

The Caux Dialogue on Land and Security (CDLS) in 2017 was a ‘turning point’ for sustainable investment professional, Micheál Akampa, who was invited to speak at its Invest in Peace conference. ‘I met ...

CDLS 2019 Tom Duncan

Empowering communities to restore mangroves

Tom Duncan is passionate about problem solving and strategic systems thinking, primarily in regenerative economics, green finance and financial technology, as a means of restoring relationships betwee...

Nhat Vhuong

Plucking water from the air

Webmarketing consultant and social entrepreneur Nhat Vhuong is passionate about tackling water scarcity. A Vietnamese refugee, who grew up in Switzerland, he worked in Japan for eight years before ret...

Aibanshngain Swer CDLS 2019

Protecting Meghalaya’s water sources

Some billion people rely on water sourced in the hills of Meghalaya, in North East India. One of those responsible for water conservation in the State, Aibanshngain Swer, took part in the Summer Acade...

CDLS 2019 Chau Duncan

Bridging the financial divides

Chau Tang Duncan is applying over 20 years’ experience in banking, trade and commercial diplomacy to improving the financial access of disadvantaged communities. ...

Meghalaya CDLS 2019 Conrad Sangma

Meghalaya’s lighthouses of sustainable development

‘Our goal in Meghalaya is to build a low-carbon economy through complete involvement and ownership of communities,’ Conrad Sangma, the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, told the opening session of the Caux...

Digital Day Switzerland 2019

IofC opens Swiss Digital Day in Geneva

“I am aware of the impact of digital technology on my everyday life.” Do you agree or disagree with that sentence?’ Rainer Gude, Partnerships Manager of Initiatives of Change (IofC) Switzerland, asked...

CDLS 2019 Alan Laubsch

Restoring nature’s superheroes

Alan Laubsch is passionate about restoring nature’s ‘climate superheros’ – the mangrove forests. He believes that democratizing natural capital investment is key to this. He has over 20 years’ experie...

Hartmut Behrend Mali

Combatting climate change in Mali

Taking part in the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security (CDLS) 2014 encouraged  German climatologist Hartmut Behrend to move out of the bubble of well-intentioned international activism to work on the g...

CDLS 2019 panel Laubsch Duncan Brown

Investing in the future of life on Earth

‘What would it feel like to be the last White Rhino?’ Alan Laubsch, founder of EarthPulse, asked participants in the third day of the Caux Dialogue for Land and Security 2019 (CDLS). ‘Your family has ...

YAP 2019 congratulations

Fresh air for Young Ambassadors

This year’s Young Ambassadors Programme (YAP) brought 39 young people from across Europe to Caux for four intensive days of training in how to work for change in their communities. They then took part...

Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish Dialogue 2019

It takes more courage to love than to hate

The Armenian-Kurdish-Turkish Dialogue 2019 took place during the Tools for Changemakers conference, bringing together people of Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish backgrounds to explore sensitive issues th...

Week of International Community

Week of International Community 2019

Thirty people, aged from five weeks to 78 years old, from 10 countries gathered for the Week of International Community (WIC) from 19 to 26 June, to prepare the Caux Conference and Seminar Centre for ...

CPLP 2019 group garden

Young people unleash their potential

The Caux Peace and Leadership Programme (CPLP) is way more than just a four-week training programme. It is a platform where young leaders from all over the world explore personal and global change. It...