CSR Spotlight: How Hyatt and other Illinois-Based Hospitality and Travel Companies are Taking Action Against Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a humanitarian issue that still plagues our modern world. In fact, currently, there are more people subjected to human trafficking globally than the populations of London, New York and Los Angeles combined — a staggering number.

Acknowledging that the hospitality industry is a hotbed for this activity, Hyatt — a giant in the world of hotel chains — is actively combatting the issue of human trafficking, as outlined in their 2022 Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement. Since 2020, Hyatt has assembled the Environmental Social Governance Committee, with the goal to set general strategies and support emerging priorities on topics related to slavery, sex trafficking and forced labor.

However, committees are not the only avenue Hyatt uses to address the issue. Hands-on, employee training is also a top priority, ensuring that employees are not only able to spot the signs of human trafficking, but intercede upon and report them as well. In conjunction with Polaris — a non-profit working to end human trafficking — a system of trainings have been established for people at every level of the company.

The trainings equip employees with the ability to be surveillance for the company’s larger mission, putting the responsibility not on just one committee but on everyone a part of the Hyatt team — especially those who are in the field everyday with guests. Which is why the company has also outlined a number of steps to protect employees — who may have witnessed a situation unfold — so they do not face “retaliation.” Actions such as: promptly following up on the situation, maintaining confidentiality of all parties involved and “escalating” the need for action when necessary.

Outside of the institution itself, Hyatt has also sustained relationships with other industry experts in the same vein of human rights work. One such organization is Sustainable Hospitality Alliance — which brings hospitality companies together to impact their communities on a local and global scale. Additoinally, Hyatt stands in unison with the UK Modern Day Slavery Act; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Blue Campaign; and was one of the first hospitality brands to sign the End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT) Code of Conduct in 2015. To strengthen their community efforts, Hyatt also works with local law enforcement officials — specifically during times of high-traffic in certain locations, including sporting or entertainment events.

Yet, Hyatt isn’t the only Illinois-based organization fighting the good fight. In fact, the Illinois Hotel & Lodgings Association — a resource and a representative for advancing the hospitality industry across Illinois — has upheld a hard and fast law that any hospitality institution in the state must supply human trafficking training to employees who have “recurring interaction with guests.” 

“Hotel employees are uniquely positioned to help identify and prevent this horrible crime, and we take our responsibility to stop human trafficking seriously,” said Michael Jacobson, President and CEO of IHLA.

Dating back to 2018, Chicago-based United Airlines, too, has taken the issue head on — enacting initiatives such as company-wide trainings and, in partnership with DHS, in-flight signage and educational materials for employees and passengers.

With all of the moving parts associated with hospitality and travel management, it is a comfort to know that the institutions that carry weight in the field will not sit idly by as this widespread human rights issue rages on.

“Hyatt’s purpose is to care for people so they can be their best,” said Peter Fulton, Chairman of the Board of Managers, Hyatt International. “This purpose guides every aspect of our business and is central to our commitment to upholding and protecting human rights.”

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Margaret Smith is a Chicago-based writer and editor with a passion for socio-political storytelling about their community. They are a graduate of Columbia College Chicago.

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