There is increasing recognition that the mainstream economic model is generating a deepening divide and hurting our planet. Modern slavery, the climate crisis, and the impact of data and technology on people are among the biggest challenges of our time.
Economies are only truly inclusive when they are equitable, participatory and sustainable, and when they respect and preserve the environment around us.
According to Oxfam, the world’s 26 richest people own as much as 50% of the world’s poorest. The global economy is now five times larger than it was 50 years ago, but inequality is rising, and more people are excluded than ever. Around the world, 40.3 million people live in conditions of slavery. Ten million of them are children. 24.9 million of them trapped in forced labour, hiding at the bottom of global supply chains, and some 4.8 million people are victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
The climate crisis has also risen to the top of the international agenda with global efforts being undertaken by governments and businesses alike to mitigate the consequences of rising global temperatures. Companies are moving towards the adoption of international ESG standards in the effort to raise transparency and accountability towards investors and the general public. New forms of impact investment and social enterprise are being developed and scaled globally.
We work with journalists, legal practitioners, civil society,
policymakers and the private sector, with the aim of combatting
modern slavery, fostering fair and sustainable economic and
business models, and raising awareness of the impact of
technology on people, society and freedoms.
We employ a unique blend of our expertise in journalism, media
development, legal research and convening, with the aim of:
Fostering a fair and sustainable economic system
Ending modern slavery
Raising awareness of the impact of technology on society
Our Inclusive Economies work centres on
the following pillars:
Fostering fair and sustainable economic and business models
Economies can only be regarded as inclusive when they are equitable, participatory and
sustainable. Inclusive economies are critical to shaping free, fair and informed societies.
Since the global adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, CEOs and
business leaders have been urged to provide a new type of leadership, pivoting the focus from
shareholder profit to stakeholder value.
Multi-national companies have been embracing Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)
criteria, a set of standards that socially conscious investors are increasingly using to screen
potential sustainable investments. Environmental criteria consider how a company performs
as a steward of nature. Social criteria examine how it manages relationships with employees,
suppliers, customers, and the communities where it operates. Governance deals with a
company’s leadership, anti-corruption mechanisms, internal controls, and shareholder rights.
In parallel, the emergence of impact investment and social entrepreneurship has introduced
new ways of using business to tackle social problems. The Global Impact Investing Network
(GIIN) estimates the current size of the global impact investing market to be $502 billion.
We create public awareness of the importance of this emerging global sector through our
journalism, and provide valuable free legal support to social enterprises around the world.
We also leverage the ESG framework to engage businesses, the legal community, policymakers,
civil society and social enterprise, to foster new approaches and decision-making models that
take into account economic and social justice, together with environmental sustainability.
Through our news coverage of social innovation and inclusive economies, with a focus on
vulnerable and marginalised groups, we raise public awareness of the vital contribution missionled
business and community initiatives can have on the health and wealth of society.
Our reporting also delves into the economic risks – and opportunities – that climate change
presents and looks at how shifts in the way economies operate could help build a safer, fairer,
greener and more resilient world for billions of people. It also examines how people – particularly
the world’s most vulnerable – are adapting to economic risks driven by a heating planet.
Effectively combating climate change will require large-scale shifts in global economic structures.
That might include putting a price on emitting pollution that causes the planet to heat, requiring
companies to report their climate risks and, in general, taking potential impacts of runaway
climate change into account in economic decision-making.
CASE STUDYTaking the pulse of social innovation
We teamed up with Deutsche Bank’s Made for Good global programme
to conduct the first global poll that ranked the best countries for social
entrepreneurship. We conducted the poll in 2016, and repeated the survey in
2019, highlighting areas of strength and weakness in the world’s 45 biggest
economies and tracking changes over three years. Our findings gave social
entrepreneurs, policymakers and investors an international tool for identifying
best practice, leading to tangible policy improvements.
In the Netherlands, in response to our poll ranking the country poorly in 2016,
its parliament committed to boosting support for social enterprise, with the
goal of making the country one of the top 10 in the world for the sector.
In a world of information overload, we work with journalists, news organisations and partners
to make sure environmental and sustainability issues remain at the top of the news agenda.
Our partners include the United Nations Foundation, UNICEF and the International Fund for
Agricultural Development, helping journalists write compelling stories on the Sustainable
Development Goals, cover health and child immunisation in India, and understand the myriad
issues affecting those in rural poverty.
CASE STUDYReporting the Sustainable Development Goals
We partnered with the United Nations Foundation to train more than 700 journalists,
and government and non-governmental communicators from 40 countries, on how
to effectively report on the Sustainable Development Goals. The programme aimed
to show how integral environment and sustainability issues are to political, economic
and humanitarian news stories. It also raised the profile of international development
projects that are often under-reported but have the power to transform global living
CASE STUDYUnderstanding the Global Reporting Initiative
Companies from many sectors are coming under increasing scrutiny and pressure when
it comes to sustainability reporting. There is a wealth of data and information on the
sustainability strategies and efforts undertaken by companies. Thorough investigation
of this publicly-available information can help journalists hold organisations to account
and uncover stories on a wide array of themes, be they political, financial, social or
environmental. In partnership with the Global Reporting Initiative, an international
independent standards organisation that helps businesses, governments and other
organisations understand and communicate their impacts on issues such as climate
change, human rights and corruption, we delivered an intensive workshop to journalists
in India, Brazil and the Philippines. The workshop provided them with the information,
tools and strategies they need to understand the complexities of sustainability and
enable them to better report through that lens.
We support innovative organisations that are addressing environmental, humanitarian and
social problems, and strengthening the ecosystem in which they exist. We do so by providing
more than 1,000 social enterprises, across 80+ countries, with pro bono legal advice from
leading law firms.
We provide vital tools and resources, including guidance on navigating regulatory frameworks,
accessing crowdfunding, and registering in various jurisdictions.
Additionally, we host accredited legal training on social enterprise and impact-investing for
lawyers, which focuses on legal issues and trends in the burgeoning social innovation sector and
provides lawyers with the skills and knowledge they need to advise clients.
CASE STUDYA guide to spearheading social enterprise
In partnership with law firm Tilleke & Gibbins, the British Council, and United Nations ESCAP, we developed the ASEAN Social Enterprise Structuring Guide.
The tool sets out the relevant registration procedures, regulatory and governance considerations, tax treatment, and finance and fundraising options, with the aim of forging a better understanding of the regulatory framework for this growing sector and ensuring the sustainability, good governance and success of social ventures.
This guide fills a much-needed gap in the Southeast Asian social enterprise sector
for practical corporate structuring advice.
It identifies a very real need and offers very practical solutions. We were immensely proud to help. Eric M. Meyer,
Tilleke & Gibbins
Our annual forum Trust Conference convenes leading experts, activists and innovators. The
2020 conference will dedicate a full day to addressing the need to build more inclusive and
sustainable models of growth, and will explore practical approaches to creating socio-economic
opportunities for marginalised groups, as well as the transition to greener economies.
Each year, our presence at the World Economic Forum in Davos is an opportunity to engage
business leaders and harness the power of this global platform to discuss and debate issues
at the forefront of the drive towards more inclusive economies.
Our 2020 Davos event ‘Putting
Purpose into Practice’ explored how business models can shift focus from shareholders’ profit
to stakeholders’ value. Co-hosted in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, our
event included: Heerad Sabeti, CEO of the Fourth Sector Group; Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of
the B Team; Michelle Milford Morse, VP for Girls and Women Strategy at the United Nations
Foundation; Debra Walton, Chief Revenue Officer at Refinitiv; and Amitabh Behar, CEO of
According to the International Labor Organization and Walk Free
Foundation, an estimated 40.3 million people around the world are
victims of modern slavery. This number includes men, women and
children who are held in forced and bonded labour and forced marriages,
or have been trafficked for commercial sex or domestic servitude. Slavery
is a hugely profitable business, estimated to be worth $150 billion a year.
We use our unique set of skills to support the whole anti-slavery
ecosystem by raising awareness of the crime through authoritative
reporting and journalism training, providing free legal assistance
and research to anti-slavery organisations, and leading collaborative
initiatives involving civil society, law enforcement, governments and
We have built the world’s largest news team dedicated to reporting on slavery and trafficking,
with journalists located in India, Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Mexico, Brazil, the UK and
Our global news coverage has successfully contributed to raising public awareness
around the many and complex issues related to slavery and human trafficking.
CASE STUDYPicked by slaves: coffee crisis brews in Brazil
Our six-month investigation uncovered extensive slave labour running
largely unchecked through Brazil’s billion-dollar coffee industry,
despite years of efforts to clean up the sector. Exclusively obtained
data, analysis of public records, and dozens of interviews, revealed
coffee produced by forced labour was stamped ‘slavery-free’ by top
certification schemes and sold at a premium to major brands such as
Starbucks and Nespresso. It was also exposed that government cuts
to labour inspections had led to a sharp drop in the number of workers
being rescued, leaving many without rights to a minimum wage,
overtime pay, severance or state benefits. Our multimedia investigation
was picked up by hundreds of international publications, reaching
millions on social media.
Slavery is a difficult crime to cover. It requires skills ranging from investigative reporting to a
deep understanding of defamation and privacy laws, and the risks that victims incur if exposed.
To spur better, more accurate and fair reporting on the issue, we train journalists around the world. To date, we have trained journalists in more than 20 countries, across four continents, in reporting on modern slavery and human trafficking.
Modern slavery is a crime often hidden from view, and conviction rates are extremely low.
International and domestic laws already exist to address various aspects of modern slavery,
including human trafficking, forced labour and debt bondage. However, these laws are not
applied often because the crimes are commonly misunderstood and the legislation is very
difficult to enforce.
We bring together NGOs, social enterprises and law firms to map how existing laws are being
used to counter modern slavery, and to identify crucial gaps in policy.
Our legal research programmes explore common trafficking and slavery scenarios across
multiple countries, and examine the laws that apply to each. Our law firm members create tools
to help frontline NGOs and lawyers secure more prosecutions, combat the culture of impunity
for traffickers, and deliver justice for victims of trafficking and slavery.
CASE STUDYImproving working standards for the fishing
industry in the Philippines
We connected Visayan Forum Foundation – a non-profit working towards ending
modern-day slavery in the Philippines – with seven law firms, led by Linklaters.
The lawyers conducted a critical examination of the rules and standards that
protect fishers across 14 jurisdictions throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Africa and
The report revealed that one of the major hurdles for fishers was the lack of
recognition as ‘employees’ and, hence, the inability to enjoy the rights and
protection provided by employment laws. It also emerged that with no dedicated
ministry overseeing the fishing industry in the Philippines, the responsibilities for
the sector were divided up among a multitude of government agencies, which
inevitably led to the policing of fishers’ rights falling through the net.
Following the publication of the research, Visayan Forum Foundation was invited
to participate in the ‘pre-boarding checks’ for fishers, effectively placing the
NGO in the frontline of the fight to eliminate unacceptable work practices in the
fishing industry. As a result, the Department of Labour and Employment released
the Philippines’ first rules and regulations governing the working and living
conditions of fishers.
This research is vital to further our efforts in protecting and empowering marginalised fishers, as it fills an
important gap in legal knowledge that we service providers don’t have. Additionally, the research gives us
an opportunity to lobby for reforms, conduct dialogues and share information with our partners! Cecilia Flores Oebanda,
Visayan Forum Foundation
Launched in 2015, the Stop Slavery Award marked the first global recognition for businesses that had set a gold standard in efforts to eradicate forced labour from their supply chains. The initiative successfully ran for six years and was expanded in 2019 to acknowledge journalists, innovative solutions, impactful collaborations between sectors, public awareness campaigns, and grassroots organisations on the frontlines.
During that time, the Stop Slavery Award helped to demonstrate the critical role businesses can play in addressing modern slavery, drive transparency in the corporate sector, raise awareness of the crime to global audiences, and inspire companies and organisations to take action. The Award also facilitated connections between key stakeholders, with the annual award ceremony convening representatives from all sectors, geographies and professional backgrounds for the exchange of expertise and best practice.
CASE STUDYBanks Alliance
Recognising the powerful contribution the financial sector can make to the
anti-trafficking movement, in 2013 the Thomson Reuters Foundation and
the New York County District Attorney created the Banks Alliance Against
Trafficking – a series of regional multi-stakeholder working groups that
support financial institutions to fight human trafficking, using their data.
Over the past seven years, the Banks Alliance has grown to include the
United States Banks Alliance, European Banks Alliance and Asia Pacific
Banks Alliance. Each regional alliance has mapped the financial footprint
of human trafficking in the formal banking system and produced toolkits
that help financial institutions to refine their monitoring and investigation
processes, and develop training programmes for staff.
All three regional toolkits have been formally endorsed by the Wolfsberg
Group, the association of leading global banks that develops frameworks
and guidance for the management of financial crime risks. The association
recognises the benefits of using the toolkits and has urged its members and
other financial institutions to put the indicators into practice, noting the
importance of collaboration, information-sharing and partnership to tackle
The Thomson Reuters [Banks] Alliance groups now provide three Anti-Human Trafficking Toolkits, relevant
across three substantial geographic regions, that are designed for specific use by banks and financial
institutions in the fight against human trafficking. We positively endorse this work and the benefits of
utilising these toolkits and all participants are to be congratulated on pursuing this initiative and setting an
example for others to follow. The Wolfsberg Group
Data has become the world’s most valuable commodity. Economists have called it the ‘oil
of the 21st Century’. But, unlike oil, data is a renewable source made by people who are
constantly giving it away.
By 2035, the world will have a trillion connected computers. This new wave of
computerisation is often referred to as ‘the internet of things’ (IoT). The ethical, practical
and legal ramifications of the IoT are complex and crucial. The implications for people’s
lives are immense.
Digital rights are a new frontier of human rights. We use all our services to raise
awareness of the global impact of technology on people and society, providing legal
frameworks and practical solutions to help navigate this constantly-evolving ecosystem. Our specific focus is on matters related to data privacy and data-led
Our legal research enables our NGO and social enterprise members to navigate the often
uncharted and challenging territory of data regulation and legislation, allowing them to remain
compliant and improve their organisational robustness.
CASE STUDYSupporting the NGO sector in navigating the EU
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into
force in 2018, introduced strict obligations in relation to the processing of
personal data. Civil society organisations are subject to GDPR regulation
but often lack the legal guidance needed to translate the new requirements
into practical outcomes.
We published two guides and delivered webinar training for NGOs and
social enterprises to help them understand how to comply:
Each year at the Trust Conference we convene digital rights experts, lawyers, policymakers,
technologists and data rights NGOs to highlight and explore the many intersections between
human rights and technology. The event offers a unique opportunity to dissect and make sense of some of the most complex human rights issues of our time, including whether we need to radically redefine our notions of privacy and consent in this digital age.
Additionally, throughout the year we host seminars and events in partnership with digital rights
NGOs, such as an event held in the Netherlands looking at the implications of domestic laws
that expand the powers of civil and military intelligence services to collect data en masse,
titled ‘What does the secret service know about you?