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E. Benjamin Skinner to speak at St. Kate’s on modern-day slavery in garment industry

Award-winning journalist and author E. Benjamin Skinner will be on campus Thursday, October 29.
Award-winning journalist and author E. Benjamin Skinner will be on campus Thursday, October 29.
Photo supplied.

There are more slaves today than at any point in human history. This startling fact was revealed by E. Benjamin Skinner in his groundbreaking investigative book A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery. Skinner speaks at St. Catherine University Thursday, October 29, 11:45 a.m.–1:15 p.m., in the Recital Hall of the Music Building. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Organized by the Department of Apparel, Merchandising and Design, Skinner’s talk “An Investigative Journalist’s Journey into Modern-Day Slavery: A Look at Supply Chain Management in the Garment Industry” offers first-hand undercover knowledge of trafficking in the apparel industry.

Focus on sustainability — both environmental and human — is integral to mission and curriculum of the Apparel, Merchandising, and Design program. Nearly every course taught introduces or enforces fair trade practices, ethical labor and workers' rights, upcycling, and the importance of sourcing local products.

“Ben's deep knowledge of the global garment manufacturing industry and the human abuses in that industry make him a very important speaker for our students to hear. In addition, we strive to bring in guests that will broaden our students' network of professionals in the industry,” says Kelly Gage, an assistant professor in the program.

A member of the Brazilian board of the World Childhood Foundation, Gage has worked on anti-trafficking efforts for more than 15 years. She initially met Skinner at the 2014 Nexus Global Youth Summit at the United Nations. Nexus brings together young leaders from around the world to address global issues, including human trafficking.

While shared interests in anti-trafficking provided the initial connection, it was Skinner’s investment company that prompted Gage to invite him to campus to speak.

Skinner co-founded Tau Investment Management, a private equity firm that provides “capitalist solutions for capitalism’s failures” by investing in the upgrade and modernization of supply chains — while also improving the lives of workers. To date, their work has focused largely on the garment and textile industry.

“Tau has an extremely innovative way of approaching the issue of labor trafficking — looking at not just bettering working conditions but also creating a profitable situation for investors, manufacturers and purchasers (large corporations),” explains Gage.

Transparentum, Skinner’s newest venture, is a nonprofit intelligence unit that adopts frontline investigative ethics and forensic methods to accelerate transparency, with the ultimate goal of eradicating human and environmental abuses in supply chains.

“I wouldn't want to be a corporation he identifies as being party to one of those situations,” adds Gage.

More about E. Benjamin Skinner

Skinner is an award-winning author and journalist who studies U.S. and global political economies, specializing in modern-day slavery. His articles and investigations have appeared numerous outlets, including Time, Newsweek International, The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and on ABC's Nightline, where one of his book's chapters was adapted into an Emmy-award-winning episode, "How to Buy a Child in Ten Hours."

Skinner served on the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Illicit Trade. He held a fellowship at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy of Harvard Kennedy School of Government, served as special assistant to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, and as research associate for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Oct. 26, 2015 by Sharon Rolenc

See also: Business, Leadership, Social Justice, Students