Meet The Nonprofit Helping the White House Stop Human Trafficking

Non-profit helping White House rank companies on slave-free workforce.

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FE_PR_121009_trafficking_iphoneapp.jpg
A screenshot of the Free2Work iPhone app.

When President Barack Obama unveiled major actions to fight human trafficking at the Clinton Global Initiative late last month, he acknowledged that the White House couldn't do it alone.

In part, that's because the new executive order announced by the president, which bans government contractors from engaging in human trafficking-related practices, was meant to encourage all American corporations to follow suit. That's where Not For Sale comes in.

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The Obama administration has confirmed that the California-based nonprofit has been tapped to participate in an upcoming forum at the White House, along with Obama's Faith-Based Advisory Council, to talk to major corporations about how their electronics, apparel and food can be produced without the use of "slaves."

In his September speech, Obama said it was time to call victims of human trafficking—the illegal trade of human beings for labor or sex—"modern slavery." The International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency that handles labor issues, estimates there are nearly 21 million slaves globally today.

"We help companies source differently, we say 'here's some great Cacao providers' [that don't use human trafficking]. ... Washington is very interested in those kind of incentives," David Batstone, president and co-founder of Not For Sale, tells Whispers. "There's also a strong demographic under the age of 35 who care about how products are made, so that's a market reward for corporations."

Not For Sale says it will also work with the White House toward a possible new federal law inspired by California's Transparency In Supply Chains Act, which requires every company making $100 million in revenue or more to report where their products were made. The White House declined to comment on the possible new law, but spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told Whispers the president's remarks made clear that the administration will be "working with the Congress and private sector and others [on this issue], because a whole-of-nation approach is needed."

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The Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking, a separate coalition of eight major corporations including ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, and Microsoft, will meanwhile work to eliminate potential human trafficking links within their businesses.

Other companies will be targeted by Not For Sale's Free2work rankings, which assign over 600 brands grades from A to F based on what the nonprofit sees as child and forced labor in their supply chain. Zales Jewelry, for example, was awarded a D- by Not For Sale, while Ghiradelli Chocolate received a C-, and Adidas sports equipment a B+.

Click the image above to use the interactive map.

Consumers can also apply pressure on companies through a Free2Work smartphone app. The app allows users to scan the barcode of a product and see whether that product or the product's brand employs human slaves, according to Not For Sale's research. The nonprofit says the app has 65,000 active users, but is likely to see a spike after Obama's announcement.

[READ: State Department: U.S. Needs To Better Track Human Trafficking Trends]

The State Department is also working with a number of other anti-human trafficking nonprofits, including FAIR Girls, which focuses on preventing exploitation of young women, Slavery Footprint, which tracks everyday household item the group believes are made with the help of slave labor, and Safe Horizon, which provides assistance to victims of labor and sex trafficking.

"With the help of the bully pulpit of the president, corporations are now starting to get it," says Batstone. Since Obama's speech, "things have already changed in terms of the [human trafficking] debate."

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or reach her at eflock@usnews.com.