LONDON – U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines and British retail bank HSBC UK were named as major winners of a global anti-slavery award on Thursday after training flight attendants to spot trafficking and giving bank accounts to slavery survivors.

Supermarket Aldi UK and Australian jeans maker Outland Denim, previously donned by Meghan Markle, were also hailed in the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Stop Slavery Award for their efforts to eradicate forced labor.

HSBC won the innovation award, Delta the campaign award, while Aldi scooped the goods and service firms award, recognized for cleaning up a high-risk supply chain and requiring suppliers and other partners to be trained in slavery awareness and laws.

Outland Denim, which employs survivors and vulnerable women in Cambodia, won the small and medium-sized companies award with judges noting its wide-ranging approach to helping staff. 

With modern slavery increasingly dominating headlines worldwide, businesses are under increasing pressure from both governments and consumers to disclose what actions they are taking to ensure their supply chains are free from slavery.

“We will continue to work collaboratively to raise awareness and drive better standards,” said Fritz Walleczek, managing director of corporate responsibility at Aldi UK.

“We hope that these awards inspire others to join forces and take positive steps to protect human rights.”

About 25 million people globally are estimated to be trapped in forced labor – from factories and farms to fishing boats – says the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO).

Delta was also hailed for its apprenticeship program that helps victims to lean professional skills and offers them jobs.

“Our work is motivated by each survivor story we hear and the 90,000 passionate Delta employees who make hope for freedom possible,” said Allison Ausband, senior vice president of in-flight service and head of Delta’s anti-trafficking committee.

The award, now in its fourth iteration, recognized civil society groups for the first time, with organizations based in Pakistan, Jordan, and Britain hailed for their efforts.

Insan Dost Association won the grassroots award for helping Pakistani bonded laborers in brick kilns. At the same time, Tamkeen scooped the impact award for supporting migrant workers in Jordan.

Speaking on a panel at the awards ceremony, experts such as Britain’s anti-slavery tsar Sara Thornton said companies should not just think about “compliance and risk” alone but consider the positives of tackling abuses to as a human rights issue.

Anti-slavery barrister Parosha Chandran said supply chain laws in many nations from Australia to Britain were toothless and called for harsher penalties, from director disqualification to large damages that could “bring companies to their knees.”

The shortlists for the two company awards were drawn up after entrants completed a detailed questionnaire, designed in partnership with human rights specialists at multi-national law firm Baker & McKenzie, giving details about their operations.

An independent specialist assessed the company submissions on the strength of anti-trafficking policies already in place, as well as their ability to identify and respond to problems.

The six new additional categories were judged by a panel of influential leaders in the global fight to end slavery – a goal that has been set by the United Nations as achievable by 2030.

The Stop Slavery Award has previously been won by brands such as U.S. tech behemoths Apple and Intel, sports giant German sportswear giant Adidas, and consumer goods company Unilever.

—Reuters