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UW Business Incubator Client CEO Says Businesses Key to Combating Human Trafficking

February 2, 2021
woman standing outside
Ashleigh Chapman, president and CEO of the Alliance for Freedom, Restoration and Justice, says other businesses are key to combating human trafficking in Wyoming, the United States and the world. (Ashleigh Chapman Photo)

In 2019, human trafficking was estimated to be a $150 billion business annually and involves roughly 40 million people trafficked worldwide, with more than 325,000 victims in the U.S. Ashleigh Chapman believes calling on all types of businesses in the fight against human trafficking is key to helping eliminate these sordid crimes.

“For many years, the burden of combating human trafficking has rested nearly entirely on government and nonprofit efforts. Human trafficking is a business, in the very worst sense of the word,” says Chapman, president and CEO of the Alliance for Freedom, Restoration and Justice (AFRJ) and Altus Solutions Inc., which are housed in the University of Wyoming’s IMPACT 307 business incubator. “And it will take an uprising of the business community to push back. Every business is uniquely positioned to come alongside government and community efforts in ways that will make a significant impact, and in ways only business can accomplish.” 

Last month, Chapman was one of the primary speakers invited to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Zoom meeting that focused on the subject of eradicating human trafficking. January is designated as National Human Trafficking Awareness Month in the United States.

“Governments give what they can, and nonprofits are giving it all they can,” Chapman said during the hearing. “But the missing person at that table, at the global and local scales, is business so much of the time. Yet, they are someone who is a powerful player -- not just in making sure you’re not part of the problem, but in becoming part of the solution.”

Chapman points to UPS Inc. as a prime example. The package carrier has trained over 50,000 drivers on the indicators of human trafficking, which led to a significant uptick in tips reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Additionally, Marriott Hotels and Delta Air Lines have trained over 500,000 staff globally to identify trafficking and develop protocols to rescue victims when traffickers use their airlines to transport or hotel properties to perpetrate these crimes. 

Randstad, a global staffing firm, developed the Hire Hope program, an apprenticeship-to-career program for survivors of trafficking. AFRJ helped Randstad launch this program in Atlanta and just expanded the program to Singapore. 

“Deloitte, Qlik, Expedite and Pomerol Partners have outsourced their technologists to support our work to develop new technologies that are helping accelerate the end of human trafficking in communities, such as our Engage Together project, which we are deploying now for the entire state of Wyoming alongside the attorney general’s Division of Victim Services and with support from UW interns,” Chapman says. “Anthem, a national health care company, is working with us to provide health care professionals the online training they need to recognize and respond to human trafficking through our Justice U project. And there are many more examples of how businesses are powerful partners in this fight.”

For the past 19 years, Chapman has worked solely on issues of human trafficking and protecting vulnerable populations. Before founding the AFRJ and Altus, Chapman was the co-founder and director of the Center for Global Justice at Regent University School of Law in Virginia; the director of a nonprofit serving thousands of at-risk youth in Tennessee; a children’s pastor; and a court-appointed special advocate for children in foster care.

The AFRJ, a business incubator client since April 2019, launched the Every Day Heroes Challenge Jan. 11, 2020. The challenge is designed to engage everyday people to become heroes against human trafficking by completing a free one-hour online course. The campaign goal was to get 1 million people to take the course and earn their online Human Trafficking Awareness badge so citizens can move from awareness to action.

“And we all know what happened next: COVID-19 hit the world,” Chapman says, referencing the pandemic. “What most people don’t know is that the pandemic greatly increased the presence of human trafficking and the vulnerabilities that drive it, in our nation and everywhere.” 

Still, as of Feb. 1, the number of people who have taken the online course stands at 3,400 learners in 47 states and eight countries. Chapman points to real-world results that came about due to this training.

“A mom in Ohio has now identified and reported two trafficking situations of minors in her neighborhood. A church in Tennessee is now providing their property to support their local foster care agency’s needs. A businesswoman in Florida realized her family member was about to be trafficked and successfully intervened. A law enforcement officer realized he had just missed a trafficking situation that he mistook for domestic violence, and now knows how to intervene. A health care facility realized they were treating victims of sex trafficking and did not know it, and are now developing protocols to address it the next time. Education is key,” Chapman says. “And we added an Impact Analytics team to help us track it all down in better ways this coming year.”

Chapman says the AFRJ will renew the campaign later this year in time for World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, which takes place in July.

Chapman recently was invited to be a member of UW President Ed Seidel’s new Council on Economic Development. The goals of this special initiative are to strengthen Wyoming’s existing industries, pioneer new opportunities, and increase alignment of all partners to support one another and the success of Wyoming’s economic strength and landscape. 

“It’s not far removed from what I do every day at AFRJ and Altus, working with communities or countries to help them develop comprehensive and collaborative strategies to address complex societal issues,” Chapman explains. 

Altus is an effort to launch a business for good that powers solutions that can not only help accelerate the anti-trafficking movement, but also could fund the nonprofit side of her business. Altus has been launched, and is already powering Justice U and Engage Together. 

“We are, however, still pursuing impact investors, as the economic impact of the pandemic this past year froze investor interest and opportunities,” Chapman says. “I do think that is thawing now, and we are reaching out again in earnest.”

A bill presently before the Wyoming Legislature to recognize for-profit public benefit corporations would help Altus greatly, were it approved. Chapman’s hope is that this bill will ignite a passion for impact investing in Wyoming not only for her company, but also many others with a passion and a plan to create sustainable and profitable solutions that help the world.

“What I know and believe is that when the business community joins the fight -- bringing with them the innovation, resources and excellence inherent to business -- we will see a turn of the tide,” Chapman says. 

For more information, email Chapman at Ashleigh@altusnow.com.

For Wyoming statistics on the National Human Trafficking Hotline, go here.

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