Where: Hong Kong
When: I went to a talk at Green Drinks Hong Kong on the 12th November 2014.
Who: CEO Matt Friedman gave the talk.
What: The Mekong Club is the movement fighting the business of slavery in the Mekong region. They are acting to educate the public about the prevalence, brutality and consequences of human slavery today; provide advice and information to businesses for awareness-raising, ensuring compliance, and taking other measures against trafficking and slavery.
Why: The Mekong Club was established in order to harness the diverse strengths of the private sector to help take down the business of human slavery and to ask businesses to play a lead role in this fight. Founder and CEO Matt Friedman has worked in this area for years and is motivated to do everything he can based on experiences he had earlier in his career trying to help people trapped in slavery.
Impacts/successes: So far, they have run 136 training events with 17913 participants; had 222 corporate meetings; helped establish 6 company projects; developed a victim identification app; and rescued 53 victims in this area.
Personal reflections: I was shocked at how prevalent and widespread slavery and human trafficking still is. Hearing Matt speak about this issue gave me the chance to focus on it for an evening. It is incredible what he is achieving, and the way he is going about it by working WITH business rather than against them is filling a gap that was previously unplugged.
The stories he tells are harrowing and you can’t help but feel compelled to do something about it. For me personally, because it is so hard to trace supply chains, I am going down the charity shop route to avoid having to do some intense investigative research! Where I do buy something new (which will happen rarely, only for particular items), I am thinking much more consciously about the shop’s credentials and whether I want to support their model of business. For example, Marks & Spencers have their ‘Plan A’ focus on sustainability, and a range of fair trade clothes so I feel happy shopping there. I’m also planning to investigate more of the ethical clothing companies like People Tree, Nomads and Traidcraft. For more interesting exercises/reading, see www.slaveryfootprint.org and www.free2work.org.