July 27, 2017, New York, New York – American Airlines adopted the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism (The Code), committing to taking steps to prevent the human trafficking of children.
The management of American Airlines took this important step after five years of engagement and dialogue on the issue. Pat Zerega, of Mercy Investment Services, took on the role of lead negotiator and the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB) played a supporting role.
“The agreement reinforces that, with shareholder advocacy work, persistence and patience with respectful dialogue can result in a very positive result,” said Kathleen Woods, Chair of the PAB’s Corporate Responsibility Committee. “We’re rejoicing as part of a collective whole.”
The Code of Conduct was developed by a coalition of advocates for children who worked together to End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT). Today, ECPAT is a network of 98 civil society organizations in 88 countries, working to protect children from sexual exploitation.
In signing ECPAT’s code, American Airlines – along with other travel-related organizations – agrees to train its employees on how to detect possible cases of human trafficking; report suspected cases to authorities; and provide educational materials to passengers, emphasizing that the exploitation of children is never acceptable. American Airlines joins Delta as the only U.S. air carriers to sign the code.
On its website, ECPAT notes that an estimated 150 million girls and 73 million boys are victims of sexual exploitation; millions are bought and sold for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Signatories to the code commit to enacting responsible policies to protect children who might be exploited through the travel and tourism industries.
“If properly trained to spot this crime, employees in the transportation industry can be on the front lines of the fight to end human trafficking,” Pat Zerega said. “In formally adopting the ECPAT Code, American has acknowledged its corporate responsibility to protect human rights in its business operations and, more specifically the power it has as a change agent on trafficking.”
The Adrian Dominican Sisters, with the 2004 vision to “seek truth, make peace, reverence life,” has long worked for an end of human trafficking and the healing of its victims. The Congregation passed in 2008 a corporate stance to combat human trafficking. Adrian Crossroads Mission Chapter, based in Adrian, was instrumental in founding a task force to work against human trafficking, now part of the Southeast Michigan Regional Taskforce.