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Leader Perspectives: Empowering Women in Our Communities

Hilton marks International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month

Kristin Campbell. Credit: Hilton
Kristin Campbell. Credit: Hilton

Each year, Women’s History Month serves as a powerful reminder that every one of us has a role to play in creating a more equal future. Despite the uncertainty around the world, we continue to stay committed to tackling important global issues, particularly those affecting women. Human trafficking – an issue that disproportionately impacts women – is one area where we’ve made significant strides to advance equality for thousands of people around the world.

In 2015, we conducted an internal human rights impact assessment. It identified human trafficking and modern slavery for sexual exploitation and labor sourcing as potential risks. This led us to focus on mitigating potential risks in hotel operations, supply chain and hotel development. Based on this assessment and informed by the U.N. Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, we launched our global human rights strategy.

What followed included updates to Hilton’s outsourcing agency contracts and a mandatory audit program covering topics ranging from recruitment to working conditions. In 2018, Hilton developed the hospitality industry’s first tailored training to identify “Key Risks of Modern Slavery in Labor Sourcing.” Based on best practices from other industries and adapted to the hospitality sector, Hilton used case-based scenarios to create impactful training material.

To accelerate the industry’s ability to enact positive change at scale, Hilton donated the training to the International Tourism Partnership. This training was made available to the entire industry free of charge on International Human Rights Day in 2019, and is already being used by at least 14 travel and tourism organizations, including eight hotel brands, to better equip their legal, human resources and procurement teams to identify and address risks within their recruitment practices.

Hilton’s EVP and General Counsel Kristin Campbell asked SVP Hilton Supply Management Anu Saxena, SVP & Chief Risk Officer Denis McCarthy, VP Legal Compliance & Privacy Mark Ehrlich, and Director Human Rights Caroline Meledo to discuss Hilton’s efforts to further human rights.

Kristin Campbell: What is Hilton’s approach to human rights?

Caroline Meledo: As a business of people serving people, it’s only normal that respect for human rights is the cornerstone of who we are and what we do. In 2018, we launched our 2030 Goals to redefine sustainable travel. This includes a commitment to embedding human rights due diligence across our supply chain, including operations, development and construction, and in our communities. We’ve developed industry-leading policies, trainings and initiatives to drive this agenda forward. That being said, there are 40.3 million people in modern slavery. The challenge is much bigger than Hilton. That’s why Hilton joined forces with industry partners and expert organizations to move the needle, including the International Tourism Partnership, the World Travel and Tourism Council, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, and the leading NGO, Vital Voices.

Kristin Campbell: What is Hilton’s Safety & Security team doing to help prevent human trafficking?

Denis McCarthy: Respecting human rights is a core part of our mission. We condemn all forms of human trafficking and commercial exploitation, including the sexual exploitation of men, women or children. At Hilton, our Risk and Corporate Responsibility teams have partnered across our operations and we have mapped all hotels and pipeline countries against 11 external human rights indices for both operations and supply chain to ensure we are living up to our commitment. We supplement this with internal data collected via our internal Global Enterprise Risk Survey. Our Global Risk Intelligence team also utilizes a social media monitoring platform that identifies possible human trafficking situations based on keyword scraping and commercial ads.

In 2018, we launched our country due diligence process, including human rights risk analysis. And, all hotel-based Team Members are required to receive training on how to identify and report signs of human trafficking. Hotels are also required to report any safety incident on property via our industry-leading incident alert mobile app, Hilton AlertSense. Alerts are managed and triaged by our Crisis Management and Safety and Security teams and we share all our best practices with our industry peers through the AHLA Hotel Security Working Group to ensure all Team Members and travelers are protected.

Kristin Campbell: What is Hilton doing to drive respect for human rights in our supply chain?

Anu Saxena: Hilton Supply Management is committed to respecting the welfare of everyone that contributes to our excellence in hospitality. Of course, that includes our vast global supply chain. To keep that promise of excellence, our Responsible Sourcing Policy lays out the conduct and standards that are expected of all Hilton suppliers.

This policy outlines a strict prohibition of child, forced, and trafficked labor. As a priority, we have been laser-focused on our labor agencies. First, we strengthened our contracts and conducted in-depth audits to make sure those agencies treat their employees properly. Now we’re expanding our approach to sourcing goods, with an emphasis on higher-risk categories like textiles, produce, fish and meat. As a best practice, we have already begun requiring our suppliers to submit third party labor audits of their factories as part of our regular sourcing process.

And our dedication does not end with Hilton as a business. We are determined to impact the hospitality industry. As part of our commitment, we co-created and launched the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) Forced Labor Principles, which we shared across our enterprise and supplier community.

Kristin Campbell: How does Hilton ensure human rights are respected during the construction phase of building hotels?

Mark Ehrlich: We don’t own our hotels or manage the construction companies involved in building our hotels. However, it’s Hilton’s name and brand that is attached to those operations. We feel a responsibility to ensure that we are providing our owners and business partners with tools to identify and manage human rights risk within their construction supply chains. We conduct country-level due diligence, including human rights due diligence for all new countries of operation to identify risks and develop mitigation plans from the construction phase through opening and ongoing operations. And where those mitigation plans intersect with areas that we don’t directly control, we use our brand standards to implement country-level requirements, such as mandatory training for construction contractors in high risk jurisdictions. These are not human rights risks that Hilton alone can solve. We need to work with the hospitality and travel industry to make an impact. We work through entities like the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) to develop industry standards and build leverage with the construction industry toward the shared goal of providing proper welfare standards for all construction workers.

Read more about Hilton’s Human Rights journey and achievements, as well as our commitment to women including our recent pledge to achieve gender parity – equal representation of women and men – at a global leadership group level and board of directors by 2025, our expanded parental leave benefits and partnership with Milk Stork. To learn more about joining the #1 Best Workplace for Women by Great Place to Work® and Fortune visit

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