Generally, when people think of oil and gas, the thought of human trafficking doesn’t immediately follow. But the Oil & Gas Trafficking Awareness Group (OGTAG) sprung into existence to highlight the role that the oil and gas industry can play in ending human trafficking. Although it began in 2017 with just 2 companies, the group now has representation from over 55+ companies and continues to grow.
The group was recently highlighted in the news during the first of its kind “Energy Empowers Freedom” week hosted in Houston, Texas. The event included educational sessions with local nonprofits fighting on the frontlines in addition to The Freedom Driver’s Project, a mobile museum to educate the public of the realities of trafficking. Over 1,500 energy employees attended this inaugural event. Energy professionals are now volunteering with these non-profits and making a difference locally as a result. The event included participation from 19 companies, including stops at major oil companies in 5 different areas of Houston, throughout the week.
Oil and Gas Can Make a Positive Impact on This Massive Global Issue
OGTAG’s core line of thinking goes as follows: The oil and gas industry is a leader in the marketplace, and as such, given its leverage and influence, it stands able to address this most pressing of human issues. According to Jennifer Hohman, OGTAG co-founder, “We have overcome the challenge of a difficult subject by shifting the conversation from risk to opportunity and demonstrating how we [oil and gas] can make a positive impact in a massive global issue.”
The organization went on to point out that human trafficking is second only to drug trafficking when it comes to crimes. It impacts 25-40 million people, generating approximately 150 billion dollars annually. In the meantime, whereas non-profit organizations and government entities undertake efforts to prevent, curb, and stop human trafficking, the private sector has the power to do so, too.
Energy Professionals Bring Awareness and Education
When energy professionals engage with this issue, their imprint can go beyond corporate and deep into the realm of the personal. In 2016, the Texas Secretary of State formed Texas Businesses Against Trafficking (TBAT), a voluntary program the private sector can join to show support of the State’s efforts to end trafficking. Texas is one of the top states in the U.S. where trafficking occurs. Houston is oftentimes called “ground zero for human trafficking.”
Truckers Against Trafficking has trained 850K trucking employees on the issue of human trafficking and sought funding to create a similar video for the energy industry which was released earlier this year and OGTAG stepped up to lend needed support (trailer and video)by encouraging their member to contribute. Energy employees who view the video are educated on how to recognize and take action on human trafficking. Given how energy professionals travel all around the world, they are uniquely positioned to potentially witness trafficking in progress, thus such training is invaluable.
When asked what they would say to those seeking jobs in their industry, “We would tell job-seekers that [oil and gas] cares about human rights, we care about the environment. We are PEOPLE working to power the world and we have big hearts,” says Alexandria Gerbasi, OGTAG co-founder.
Whereas OGTAG’s work and mission contain a great deal of innovation, they do follow in the footsteps of other companies that took action to address human trafficking in oil and gas, among them OVS Group, ConocoPhillips, Apache, and Noble. All these companies took brave steps to address human trafficking publicly in the oil and gas sector. By the same token, nonprofits are partnering with OGTAG to collectively rise up against trafficking together.
Oil and gas fuel the very engines of human momentum and productivity. With this in mind, it stands to reason that the oil and gas industry can play a vital role in stomping out the heinous crime of human trafficking. The Oil & Gas Trafficking Awareness Group is showing us how.
We’re proud to know the energy professionals behind OGTAG and honored to distinguish the group as GRIT Award Team winner. Know another energy professional or group who’s got GRIT? Head over to the GRIT Awards page for the most current information or check out Faces of Energy to meet more inspiring people.