310 – What’s the Best Way to Equip Business Leaders?

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Dr. Sandie Morgan is joined by Kirsten Foot and Kenneth Andrew as the three discuss the role of Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) in equipping businesses with the tools and resources necessary to end trafficking.

Kirsten Foot

Kirsten Foot, PhD, is the CEO and Executive Director of Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) which equips employers to counter human trafficking, and provides pathways to safe employment for trafficking survivors. BEST offers employers video based and in-person training services, consulting on anti-trafficking strategy, and advisement on communicating about human trafficking with employees, customers, vendors and the public. Kirsten Foot was also a guest on Episode #111 of the Ending Human Trafficking podcast.

Kenneth Andrew

Kenneth Andrew, is Vice President for global, small, medium, and channel partners with Microsoft Advertising, and his career has taken him to many parts of the world. He seeks to leverage his abilities to drive positive change in the business world and beyond. As a member of BEST Board of Directors since 2018, he helps businesses interrupt and prevent human trafficking.

Key Points

  • Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) plays a critical role in equipping employers to counter human trafficking, providing training through both video-based and in-person training services.
  • BEST aims to prepare employers to not only identify and understand trafficking, but interrupt it safely.
  • Employers are also provided with communication strategies for discussing trafficking in the workplace.
  • Situational awareness is an integral part in the process of interrupting trafficking. BEST strives to encourage employers to take effective action and ask those who might be victimized the important questions that allow them to disclose what they might be facing.



Sandra Morgan 0:00
It’s time to register for the annual Ensure Justice Conference at Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice. The conference is always the first Friday and Saturday of March, that way you can make it a recurring event in your calendar! 2024, It’s March first and second, we’re just a couple of months away. Our theme is Keeping Our Children Safe Online. We will explore the issues; What is happening online? What are the risks for our children at this stage of their development? What can we do as parents, caregivers, teachers, community members? Our speakers include many of our podcast expert guests, and we are partnering with our Orange County Department of Education. Check out our website for more info and don’t miss the early bird rates. Go on over to gcwj.org/ensurejustice. Right now, there is a virtual option for our global listeners, as well as special rates for college students. Join us to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference at Ensure Justice, March 1st and 2nd, 2024.

You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. This is episode #310: What’s the best way to equip business leaders? My name is Sandie Morgan and this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. It is so great to have Kirsten and Kenneth from BEST with us today. Kirsten Foot, PhD, is the CEO and Executive Director of Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) which equips employers to counter human trafficking, and provides pathways to safe employment for trafficking survivors. BEST offers employers video based and in-person training services, consulting on anti-trafficking strategy, and advisement on communicating about human trafficking with employees, customers, vendors and the public. She was also my guest on Episode #111 of our podcast. Her colleague Kenneth Andrew, is Vice President for global, small, medium, and channel partners with Microsoft Advertising, and his career has taken him to many parts of the world. He seeks to leverage his abilities to drive positive change in the business world and beyond. As a member of BEST Board of Directors since 2018, he helps businesses interrupt and prevent human trafficking. I am so glad to welcome both of you to the show today.

Kirsten Foot 3:46
Thank you, Sandie.

Kenneth Andrew 3:48
Glad to be here.

Sandra Morgan 3:49
Kirsten, it’s been quite a while since we’ve been together, but we used to hang out a lot, maybe not in person, but particularly online and on the phone. I especially remember when we recorded episode #111 because your amazing research and book on collaboration came out at that time, and I’m just curious how you moved from writing and research in the academic world, to being a nonprofit CEO.

Kirsten Foot 4:30
It’s a recent change, it’s one I’m still catching up in all different levels psychologically, but I am motivated to be leading BEST of all things, because BEST does what I have been advocating through my research for over 15 years now. BEST works across sectors, across the private sector, public sector, the nonprofit sector, to catalyze much more strategic, effective interaction between organizational leaders, against human trafficking. So after months of hearing about BEST’s search for a new CEO, literally three invitations in I realized, I really should consider applying, and so I did. Kenneth could tell you more of the story since he’s on the board, but I realized through a very rigorous interview process that BEST was incredibly well organized, and highly effective, and that I would really have joy in helping multiply its efforts and lead it in its new stage. I’m just four months in, but I’m loving it, and I see all kinds of potential for the kinds of things that BEST can do, and I want to help that happen.

Sandra Morgan 5:40
I’m eager to see the application of the principles in your book on collaboration, which we still use in our anti-human trafficking certificate courses here at Vanguard. So we appreciate your knowledge, your insight, and now we’re going to watch you as you lead in this new sphere, so congratulations.

Kirsten Foot 6:06
Wow, thank you.

Sandra Morgan 6:07
Kenneth, as a board member of BEST, you’ve been in this for a while, you also represent the business community in many ways. Can you give us a little better idea of the mission and vision of BEST?

Kenneth Andrew 6:28
Yeah, absolutely. First, I should also say how delighted we are as a board to have Kirsten on board really helping us lead through this next chapter, because this really is a pivotal moment for us, as this is one of the fastest kind of growing crimes we have in society today. So it was really important for us to find a leader that could kind of champion the cause, and really drive our mission forward. Really, when we think about our mission, BEST’s role is really to align and equip leaders to use the power of business to prevent human trafficking. So what that means is, how do we leverage the business community? How do we partner with them, train, enable, drive awareness, of this as a societal issue? And how do we equip them to be able to not just sort of observe or sort of understand the issue, but to be able to interrupt, and to do that in a safe way? That’s really what BEST is trying to do, is look at ways to equip the business community with the tools, and resources, and training to be able to identify, interrupt, and then take action to really support these victims.

Sandra Morgan 7:46
So why do you believe that businesses need to be proactive?

Kenneth Andrew 7:54
Look, fundamentally, human trafficking is an abuse of human rights, and it’s happening in many places hidden in plain sight sometimes, and business leaders have a number of options. They can ignore it, and therefore, potentially, unwittingly enable it. Or, they can aim to interrupt in a way that can lead to preventing it. I think businesses have that sort of responsibility to take action. I also think, sort of ignorance and complicity, even unintentional, could be costly to businesses. There’s financial costs, due to fines or lawsuits, of people who have been victims through their services, or product, or their business. There’s also revenue impact that could come from reputational harm or lost businesses. Imagine, do you want to stay at a hotel that you know, that has been somehow unwittingly involved in some form of human trafficking challenge or issue? Would that not question their security, their measures, their morality as a business, honestly? In a world of social media, and how information is so pervasive and so quickly shared and spread, businesses need to form a position on injustice and how they can manage and mitigate potentially negative sort of situations. I work at Microsoft and one of the reasons I work at Microsoft is I am proud of their mission, and I am proud of the social stance and position that Microsoft takes on a number of issues facing our society today. So integrity, social responsibility, equity, and the well being of employees and customers and clients, is a reason why people come to work at a company and it’s also the reason why they stay at a company. So I think it’s really important for businesses to show up as a leader, and encourage people to see that they have principles, and they have ethics, and they have very clear measures in place to prevent issues like this. So I think people want to align to organizational practices with stated values, they want to improve employee morale and loyalty, and by taking a stance and being very clear on their social responsibility area, I think is another reason why businesses should care.

Sandra Morgan 10:39
Well, I just wanted to jump in here because about a year and a half ago we had Ambassador John Richmond here, at Vanguard, and we had a business forum. He gave us sort of a look into the future of what was emerging, and this sense that the movement is beginning to place the onus on business leaders, you know, with the passage of the Uyghur Anti-Human Trafficking Prevention Act, now you’ve got guidelines that are legislated. Instead of investigators, law enforcement, department of labor, having to have all the burden on them, businesses have a burden of proof on them as well. So how do you see best intervening, or actually enhancing that transition within the movement? Maybe both of you could give an answer.

Kirsten Foot 11:47
Well, I’d say to that, that with the passage of the California Supply Chain Transparency Act,

Sandra Morgan 11:53
I love that yes, back to 2010.

Kirsten Foot 11:57
And the recent revision, right, that is strengthening that, states across the US and many other countries are recognizing, of course, the the original version of that act required a declaration of whatever a business was or wasn’t doing, but that is changing. With the act that you mentioned, Sandie, businesses are now increasingly going to be expected to take responsibility. I would say most business leaders, from my perspective, want to do the right thing, and BEST assumes good intent when businesses come to BEST with interest in and ideas about what can be done. There are a variety of ways that BEST can equip businesses to engage proactively, safely and effectively in countering human trafficking, and it begins with thinking about what a business’s overall strategy is going to be. So it is really not sufficient to just say, “Oh, we’re going to do a supply chain check through some third party vendor and just check a box.” And it is also not sufficient to say, “Well, we’re gonna pop and play this brief curriculum for our employees, and they’re going to watch it once and that’s it.” There really needs to be an overall organizational strategy of what is this organization’s risk, what are its opportunities? Basically, a SWOT analysis. What are our strengths, our weaknesses, our opportunities or threats in relation to human trafficking, and what will our organization strategy be, whether independently as a unique organization, or as part of an industry? Because increasing their industry level efforts that are underway, and I think the legislation is helping with that. Certainly the hotel industry, some other types of of industries, transit, there’s some really exciting things happening as industry leaders, not just individual businesses. Consider what our overall strategy needs to be. But that also then immediately calls into question, how are we going to communicate about this? Because training employees or equipping employees to recognize indicators of trafficking, all of which BEST does, all of that are are forms of communication. So again, Sandie, back to why did I leave a discipline of communication and academic to join BEST? Well, because countering human trafficking is about communicating about it, and business leaders really need help thinking through “How are we going to communicate about this in a constructive, effective, equitable way? How are we going to advance our core values as a business in how we communicate, regarding human trafficking? And how are we going to do that with employees in particular ways, with customers or vendors in other ways, and with the various aspects of public audiences that are listening to us, that are accessing our property, that are buying our goods or services?” Those are all external audiences for organizations for which communication needs to be carefully crafted. So one thing BEST does in the beginning point, helping business leaders plan a strategy and think through how they’re going to communicate in that strategy, to each of these different kinds of groups of people that are core to their business or external members of the public that are really important. For example, sex trafficking can be really difficult to talk about while in the work environment, because of taboos, because of sensationalism in the media, because of all different kinds of things, but other aspects of trafficking, labor, trafficking and exploitation that’s been historically grounded in a particular region of the world, or a particular type of work, type of industry that also can be very sensitive, very difficult to talk about, and BEST can help with a communication strategy, and some actual guidance on how to do that communicating. BEST also offers a really fantastic set of training opportunities for businesses, and I get to brag about it, because I didn’t build any of these. I’m stepping into it and helping improve them, and help get them out better. But BEST’s video trainings are a core piece of what it does, embedded in in-person, multi level trainings, whenever possible. Those video trainings themselves though, are really distinct in the field of trainings for businesses, because they’re story based. They’re first-person narrative based, they’ve drawn in multiple voices, diverse people that are experts in, are affected by human trafficking, sex trafficking, and labor trafficking in any industry and in specific industries, and that makes them really memorable and very impactful for the people listening to them. The purpose of all those training videos and the larger curriculum that goes around, and the kinds of in person events that BEST’s staff hold for businesses, to help train trainers, and answer questions, and help businesses advance beyond just introduction to human-trafficking, is all about equipping people in their workplace, to be able to identify indicators of trafficking behavior, not racial profiling, not gender profiling, but indicators of possible force, fraud, or coercion, as they may be encountering in the context of their work, and then know how to report that safely and effectively, to interrupt it with the intent that enough interruption is going to actually prevent it for that business, in that workplace. That’s the essence of what BEST does for businesses and it’s really, really impactful. There are awareness raising materials, there are other pieces of communication that all go around that, but I’m trying to convey the core of it.

Sandra Morgan 17:30
Right. So we’ll put a link directly to the part on your website, about “Train Your Staff,” I think that’s brilliant. I’ve heard you say safety, or safely, three times since we started this conversation. Why is that an important aspect of any kind of anti-human trafficking training?

Kirsten Foot 17:55
I’ll let Kenneth take a first point talking on that from his perspective within business, and then Kenneth, I’ll elaborate around that. But let’s hear what you have to say about those things in relation to to businesses being proactive about trafficking.

Kenneth Andrew 18:12
Yeah, I mean, a couple of things. So to my point around, how do you equip your staff to be able to deal with, to be able to observe, interrupt, and then take action, you have to do that in a way that it not only protects the brand, or the company, the business that you’re working for, but also that you are protecting the safety of that individual. So that person who is stepping in, if they see something happening, they see something that isn’t right, they have been trained upon this, BEST helps provide a very clear sort of set of next steps, in order to actually take action in a safe way for that employee, for that safe way for that business that they represent, but also the safe way for the victim as well. I think those are the three elements that we need to make sure of, is we often feel like we should jump into a situation and we feel we’re doing the best thing, but sometimes our actions have unintended consequences if we don’t follow the right steps and procedures, particularly in the sex trafficking space. There are people who are often controlling the victims. These people can be dangerous, these people can be armed, there can be all sorts of challenges and issues and if you as an employee step into that situation, you need to be equipped with the knowledge to know how to act. Safety is really really, really important.

Sandra Morgan 19:48
I recall being in a rideshare, recently, this last summer when I was traveling, and the driver listened to me and my colleague as we were debriefing on the conference we’d just spoken at, and he had so many questions. Safety was at the core of that, because we told him “Don’t put on your cape and become the hero.” So Kirsten, how do you intervene in that and what would you say to people who are gig drivers?

Kirsten Foot 20:32
Well, and not just gig drivers, but anyone interfacing with the public, who is witnessing a situation where there may be a controller presence. In BEST training we use the term “controller” to refer to that person who is perhaps controlling someone else for the purpose of exploiting them. What may be apparent to an employee of a rideshare, or for hire, or any other type of industry, is that they may see an instance where there’s behavior actions being taken that are indicators of exploitation unfolding right in front of them, things that are threats, or actual physical violence, or a really overwhelming surveillance or power dynamic. A number of other things, I’m not going to go into all these indicators, but when someone in the context of their work observes that, the first question that BEST trains them to ask is, “Is there a controller present?” and if there is, BEST’s practice is to not insert oneself in the situation, but get out of the situation as soon as possible to alert law enforcement with the best information possible of the who, what, when, where. What cars were involved, what locations were involved, and if possible, in the situation if it is possible to communicate directly with a potential victim, apart from the controller. An important fundamental starting point question is just “Are you okay?”, because the answer to the question, “Are you okay?”, if asked when a potential victim is alone, could be “Yes, I’m just fine.” In which case, there’s not much that the employee can do, but if there’s any answer like, “I feel afraid,” or, “I don’t want to go back,” or, “Please don’t drop me off there,” or anything else, then that opens up a number of other questions and other options for the employee to take action on. But it is really, really important for the safety of the employee and the potential victim, that there be a situational awareness regarding the presence or proximity of a controller, and that there’s a different process of action needed if a controller is present, versus if a controller is not. I will put the caveat here that if it appears to an employee that a minor is involved, that the person who might be being victimized might be a minor, that requires an immediate call to 911, as soon as it’s safe for the employee to do that, or somehow communicate to someone else to call 911. There’s a variety of ways that an employee can think through how would it be possible to get a hold of 911, with a minor involved, without endangering oneself as the employee or that minor. So these are some things that BEST gets into in more advanced training and in question answer sessions with employers, because it depends on the industry, on the type of workplace. Is someone in a vehicle and moving, are they stopped, are they in a store location? There’s lots of different scenarios there. But I hope that starts to give you an indication of the priority of safety for employees as they move from being bystanders because unfortunately, the evidence over decades here is that in many cases, human trafficking has played out under the watch of people at work, in various industries, just doing their job, not necessarily recognizing what they’re seeing, or if they recognize it, having no idea what to do, how to respond effectively and safely. That’s what BEST is trying to turn around and again, there’s a lot of different situational awareness components to that. But fundamentally, it’s about taking effective action in the moment, with someone who might be being victimized by asking them in private, “Are you okay?”, and of course, the follow up question, “Is there a need that I could help you with?”, if they express that need.

Sandra Morgan 24:25
Okay, and Kenneth, do you want to add anything there?

Kenneth Andrew 24:29
No, I think Kirsten covered the main points.

Sandra Morgan 24:33
Then let me go just a little deeper with this. You talked about an employee deciding what to do in the moment, and I know from way back when I first started working with women around safety issues and reducing violence against women, we taught them to be prepared. They had to practice what they were going to do. I think all of us girls, we all learn to walk with our keys between our fingers. Now we’ve got a fob, I don’t know what to do about that, but my understanding with your training is that this actually feeds in to having policies in place. When we operationalize our intent in a policy, that takes the onus off of the employee, because this is what my employer has laid out for me. I think that’s an important element and I see, Kenneth, you’re shaking your head yes. Do you want to comment and how you see that from a business perspective?

Kenneth Andrew 25:54
Yeah, I mean, I’m just reflecting because only last night, I took my standards of business conduct training at Microsoft here, which talks very much about the ethics of doing business, how you need to show up, and how we all have accountability as employees to live the values and brand of the business that we work for. We’re all representatives, and therefore, our actions matter, and they mean something. We do have to take actions, and so yes, I think by influencing policy and guidance, employee handbooks, all of that work makes a very clear statement to the employee. We expect you to uphold these values, and we expect you to take action, so I think it’s really important.

Sandra Morgan 26:42
So we mentioned sex trafficking, I want to address labor trafficking. More and more, we’re seeing unaccompanied minors that are in poultry processing factories, or hotel cleaning, or office business cleaning, and labor trafficking victims are often doing things that are legal, so you’re not going to interrupt it because it’s something that is a real job. Identifying people who aren’t happy in their job, I have to tell you, when I’m traveling, I don’t see a lot of hotel cleaning staff whistling, “Oh, I’m happy to be at work,” but that doesn’t mean that they’re trafficking victims. So how do we address interrupting labor trafficking from the business perspective?

Kirsten Foot 27:40
So there are a common set of indicators that can point to, or help us recognize, when we’re seeing instances of force, fraud, or deception, or coercion, playing out in worker interactions, right in front of us, and that’s true across industries, but it is the case that people engaging in work where they’re interfacing with the public, are more likely to encounter situations where they get to observe that firsthand. So there’s all kinds of stories, Sandie, as you know, of an individual who’s been compelled to work without pay, without freedom to move, finding a way to let somebody know and ask for help. But BEST training is helping employees notice that proactively and ask the question, “Are you okay?” So just one recent example from an organization BEST partners with, a transit employee was in a transit station, saw a person looking confused, bruised, and very distressed. They asked the question, “Are you okay?”, and the person said, “No, I have no idea where I am, how I got here, or what’s going to happen.” That led to a conversation in which the person disclosed exploitative labor over many weeks, had left them completely unsure of everything, hungry, exhausted, no idea where they are, and the transit worker knew enough to report that well, which connected the person with services in the language that’s their home language, and gave them access to a whole bunch of resources to help them find a path out of that exploitation. Thanks to that transit worker who recognized the signs of distress that could have indicated a lot of things, but could also have indicated, in fact did indicate labor trafficking, and knew what to do to respond and connect that person with the services that they needed to find their way out of the exploitation and literally out of that transit station, into a safe place.

Oh my goodness, and that story brings us back to why. When you who were introducing the mission and vision. Kenneth, I loved that you landed on a victim centered approach. That’s why we’re doing this, because people do not deserve to be exploited or become slaves. I wish we had more time, we’re going to have to do this again, Kirsten, I love this new direction in your leadership. Kenneth, it is a delight to meet you, and as we wind up, I want our listeners to go to the show notes, and click on the link, and look around yourself. Then I’m going to give you each 30 seconds for your parting words, and Kenneth, you get to go first.

Kenneth Andrew 29:56
Well, thank you, and thank you to your listeners, because by listening to this, you’re also increasing your awareness and you can potentially be that person that steps in to interrupt and intervene, and be that voice. What we hear most often from victims is “People think I’m invisible,” and that moment of connection with another human is so important. Looking at someone who you can see is clearly suffering and saying, “Are you okay?” matters, it really, really matters. That’s our mission, BEST’s goal is to enable you all and employees of businesses to be able to observe, interrupt, and take action safely.

Kirsten Foot 31:30
So I will add to this, that BEST exists to equip businesses to not just comply with whatever regulation their industry faces, or whatever a minimum standard is, but to actually lead and shine in their industry, as a leader, in doing the right thing for the right reasons, and to reap all the benefits of that. To reduce their employee turnover, increase their employee loyalty, to reduce their risk of liability, and to do it because it’s the right thing to do and this is a moment for businesses to differentiate themselves as leaders in a way that is going to accrue all kinds of benefit to them, and they’re doing the right thing as businesses within their sector, as well as to the members of their local community and their international community that matter to them. We believe business leaders want to act with integrity and do the right thing, and we want to equip them to do that. There’s all kinds of great examples of business leaders already doing that, and there’s room for many more. So BEST wants to be available to any business leader that wants to help its organization lead in this area.

Sandra Morgan 32:41
I’m delighted to have had you both here today and I’m looking forward to following you. I believe that this is a concrete approach to more than awareness for businesses, who are literally poised in the workplace where rrafficking victims are often, as Kenneth said, often feel invisible. So thank you both for coming and I will hope to have you back. Thanks.

Kenneth Andrew 33:17
Thank you so much.

Kirsten Foot 33:19
Thank you, Sandie.

Sandra Morgan 33:20
I’m so grateful that Kirsten and Kenneth joined us for this conversation. There were so many points that made me think of questions people have asked me about how business leaders can become part of the solution, how they can join the movement in meaningful ways, not just writing a check. So if you are like me, and you think of someone, please invite them to join our community by sharing this podcast episode, either through an email or on your social media. Recently, several of our community of listeners have posted their favorite episodes on their social media so their community can also learn with us, from the experts and field practitioners that are our guests on this podcast. If you’re new here, go on over to endinghumantrafficking.org. You can find resources, links to things mentioned in this conversation, and learn about our anti-human trafficking certificate program here at Vanguard University. Please join us again in two weeks. See you then.

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