BOSTON, MA – In November, Marriott International’s Board of Directors approved a change in its Human Rights policy to specifically include a section on the Protection of Children. “We commend Marriott for following through on their pledge to develop a policy to address the issue of sexual exploitation of children as part of our agreement to withdraw the shareholder resolution that we filed on behalf of our clients at the end of 2005”, said Carina Silberg, Research Analyst of GES Investment Services of Sweden.
“We believe that Marriott has demonstrated a sincere commitment to addressing the issue of sexual exploitation of children from a risk management and corporate responsibility perspective” said Lauren Compere, Director of Shareholder Advocacy at Boston Common Asset Management. “We hope that other hotel chains and other companies involved in the tourism industry will take up this issue with the same leadership that Marriott has.”
Lauren Compere and Carina Silberg co-led an intensive dialogue with Marriott International to adopt policies and procedures to address the sexual exploitation of children in the hotel industry. The initiative was prompted by Swedish Första AP-fonden, part of the Swedish National Pension System, and other shareholders playing a key part in the discussions with Marriott include DnB NOR of Norway and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. Over the last nine months, the shareholder group has met three times with members of Marriott’s Human Rights Task Force comprised of senior officials in the organization across the areas of human resources, compliance, public affairs and international lodging operations. The Task Force was specifically formed to address this issue throughout Marriott’s global operations.
“As shareholders we are concerned about the risks of companies in the tourism and travel industry being associated with or used as a mean in Child Sex Tourism (CST). These risks and the central role of travel professionals in preventing such risks have been recognized by several important organizations and we believe addressing these matters is material to companies in the industry.“ stated William af Sandeberg, CEO and President of Första AP-fonden.
Marriottt has already begun employee awareness and training on this new policy at all levels of the organization from the most senior level down to the front line personnel through a variety of communications. Marriott is also taking a leadership role in the International Business Leaders Forum that is working on an industry-wide initiative to prevent child sex tourism. Marriott started including in all pre-arrival email messages (20 million are sent by Marriott each year to registered guests), the Responsible Tourist and Traveller brochure developed by the United Nations World Tourism Organization which includes a message about not engaging in child sex tourism since it is a crime. Additionally, Marriott has encouraged all their sites to look for specific partnerships to address this issue within the communities that they are working, including youth outreach programs.
“As faith-based investors, who are also involved on the ground in prevention efforts and in the after care of children who have been abused in many of these countries, we believe that the tourism industry can play a critical role in preventing this egregious human rights violation” stated Rev. David Schilling, director, Global Corporate Accountability Program, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) in New York City. ”This is such a critical issue for ICCR members that we will be expanding our efforts to engage other hotel chains, travel agencies and airlines over the next few years.”
The shareholder group will continue to encourage Marriott to expand their efforts in this area and monitor the implementation of their policy. The group believes Marriott has taken a huge step in adopting appropriate policies and procedures to address the exploitation of children within their sphere of influence.
Why are shareholders concerned over this issue;
Each year more than two million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade, some of them as young as five years old, with the average age of 14. Child sex tourism (CST) is the practice of foreigners sexually exploiting children in another country. It is an organized multi-million dollar industry (includes tour guides, websites and brothel maps). Problem countries include Cambodia, Thailand, Costa Rica, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Brazil, India and others. At least 32 countries have extraterritorial laws that allow the prosecution of their citizens for CST crimes committed abroad including the U.S. The risk of being used as a mean by CST perpetrators, but also the central role of travel professionals in preventing such risks have been recognized by several important organizations including the International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Hotel & Restaurant Association (IH&RA) and the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons under the US Department of State. All these institutions have issued reports or statements suggesting that tourism areas may be a source for aggravated demand for child prostitution.
About Första AP- fonden
Första AP-fonden, AP1, the First Swedish National Pension Fund, is one of five buffer funds in the reformed pension system whose mission is to ensure future retirement pensions. At mid-year 2006 Första AP-fonden had assets of SEK 188.2 billion (USD 27 billion) under management.
Boston Common Asset Management is a full-service, employee-owned U.S. social investment firm dedicated to the pursuit of financial return and social change.
GES Investment Services is Northern Europe’s leading research and service provider for Responsible Investments based on international guidelines on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues.
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) is a faith-based member organization with over 275 institutional investors with a combined portfolio value of about US$ 110 billion.