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Walk Free Calls on Big Business to End Slavery Worldwide

YANGON, Myanmar, Dec. 16, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Walk Free: The Movement to End Modern Slavery launched its global campaign, Putting Slavery out of Business, from Myanmar today.

Walk Free members globally will call on the world's major corporations to work together to end modern slavery by identifying, eradicating and preventing forced labour in their operations and supply chains.

"Business has always been a key driver of social change, shaping modern life through innovation and new technology. If Corporate Giants – 25 of the world's top businesses whose net worth make up US$5 trillion – prioritise the abolition of modern slavery as their next major innovation, we could quickly deal a major blow to the slavery industry in this generation," said Nick Grono, CEO of Walk Free.

"Forced labour does not exist in isolation, it encourages related abuses such as fraudulent recruitment. It is time for Corporate Giants to collectively address their responsibility to make modern slavery a priority for their global agenda." 

Walk Free is asking the world's major companies to make a Zero Tolerance for Slavery Pledge by 31 March 2013. The campaign aims to set an example for every business; giving consumers the information they need to make informed choices and ending the nightmare of modern slavery for millions around the world.

Sir Richard Branson signed Walk Free's pledge and sent a message of support to the campaign launch in Myanmar saying, "I am delighted to be able to sign this pledge on behalf of all the Virgin group of companies and I would urge other businesses to do the same."

While many think of slavery as a relic of history, experts estimate that there are currently 20.9 million people living under threat of violence, abuse and harsh penalties[1]. Within this massive number, the majority of people -- more than 14.2 million -- are in a forced labour situation, used to source raw materials, and create products in sectors such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing and domestic work.

Some companies rely on goods that are sourced from countries where business accountability and government regulation are weak, and factors such as poverty, discrimination and conflict create opportunities for exploitation. Without consistent supply-chain monitoring, suppliers are exploiting the system -- and people -- to turn a profit.

The campaign Putting Slavery out of Business was launched in Yangon at an event led by Walk Free CEO Nick Grono, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large to Combat Trafficking In Persons Luis CdeBaca, Fortescue Metals Group founder and Chairman Andrew Forrest, UNICEF specialist on trafficking and migration, Dr Susu Thatun, and Free the Slaves founder Kevin Bales.

Click here to DOWNLOAD video footage and photos of Walk Free's event and their supporters (clips of Andrew Forrest, Luis CdeBaca, Jason Mraz, Kevin Bales, Dr Susu Thatun).

Zero Tolerance for Slavery Pledge:

We pledge zero tolerance for slavery. We commit to prevent forced labour from finding its way into our products. We pledge that our operations are free of forced labour, and will carefully monitor our supply chains and subcontracting arrangements to ensure the same. We will take responsible steps to respond to any problems found. 

The Campaign for Putting Slavery out of Business – Companies asked to sign:

Exxon Mobil
Wal-Mart Stores
General Electric
Berkshire Hathaway
Johnson & Johnson
Procter & Gamble
Merck & Co.
Anheuser-Busch InBev
Twitter: @walkfree       

Media Contact: 
Ranya Alkadamani 
+95-9419-87875 (Myanmar) / +61-434-664-589 (Australia)

[1] International Labour Organization Global Estimate on Forced Labour, 2012

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