NACS, Convenience Media Unite to Combat Human Trafficking
NATIONAL REPORT — Convenience Store News is teaming up with NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, and two other leading convenience retailing media companies to help combat human trafficking during Human Trafficking Awareness Month in January.
This unique collaboration, which includes Convenience Store Decisions and CSP, will help raise awareness of how communities can combat human trafficking. Collectively, the monthly magazines published by these four organizations reach more than 350,000 convenience store industry thought leaders.
With 155,000 stores across the United States, the convenience and fuel retailing industry plays a valuable role in the communities it serves, from contributing more than $1 billion a year to charities to helping address important community-focused issues. The industry works with groups that are active in serving as neighborhood watch groups, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign, the National Safe Place Network and In Our Backyard’s Convenience Stores Against Trafficking (CSAT) program.
“Convenience stores can play a vital role in combating trafficking. They can help raise the profile of important issues in communities and, with extended hours of operation, serve as a safe haven in communities,” said Don Longo, editorial director of Convenience Store News. “Working together, we can share resources that address the problem of human trafficking with the convenience store community.”
“U.S. convenience stores serve 165 million customers a day in every community, and most of these businesses are open 24/7. Our industry is well equipped to share important messages in stores so that employees and customers can collectively create the equivalent of a neighborhood watch program in their communities,” added NACS Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives Jeff Lenard.
Showing Corporate Responsibility
Consumers increasingly say they will support companies that support their communities. A September 2018 NACS consumer survey found that 49 percent of consumers — and 61 percent of millennials — say they are more likely to support companies that participate in community projects or donate to charitable causes.
NACS, along with 87 convenience store chains and other industry-related groups, are utilizing In Our Backyard’s CSAT program, the group’s most successful outreach activity that has trained more than 13,000 convenience stores on how to respond appropriately and safely to incidents of human trafficking.
“Our partners have been shining examples of our ‘We’re not just convenient; we care!’ tagline,” said In Our Backyard Program Director Juliana Williams. “Most importantly, lives are being saved because victims are calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline from convenience store restrooms, and employees are calling to share tips about suspected traffickers and victims who may need help.”
CSAT provides awareness, education and life-saving materials at thousands of locations across the country. In addition to employee training on recognizing and safely reporting the signs of human trafficking, CSAT provides Freedom Stickers, which contain the National Human Trafficking Hotline number, to be posted in restroom stalls — often the only place a victim of human trafficking is alone and safe enough to reach out for help.
Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Blue Campaign also is working with the convenience retailing industry. In 2017, NACS worked with DHS to provide convenience retailers with access to free NACS-branded DHS Blue Campaign training and awareness materials for download — including posters, handouts and other materials.
DHS developed the Blue Campaign to work with organizations and businesses, such as gas stations, truck stops and convenience retailers, to raise awareness of human trafficking.
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is recognized each year on Jan. 11. To raise awareness of human trafficking, the Blue Campaign asks people to take photos of themselves, friends, family and colleagues on that day wearing blue and share them on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – along with #WearBlueDay hashtag.
Additionally, In Our Backyard will be posting on Facebook and Instagram on Jan. 11 and throughout the entire month asking people to post a picture of a stop sign and say why stopping human trafficking matters. Tag @inourbackyard in the picture and use the hashtags: #stoptrafficking, #inourbackyard and #WhyIFightHT.
“Representing one-third of all retail stores in the United States, convenience stores don’t just sell products and services that people enjoy; they make a difference in their communities and help address important national initiative groups at a local level,” said Lenard.