SPOTLIGHT: Carlson Wagonlit Travel and the Carlson Family Foundation

Carlson is one of the founding members of the BEST Employers Alliance.
January 31, 2018

Carlson is one of the founding members of the BEST Employers Alliance. They experienced a great deal of change after selling their hotel operations in order to focus on their corporate travel management company, Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT). One thing that has not changed is their dedicated commitment to leading the fight against human trafficking. Now, CWT is forging new ground in the travel management industry by educating their employees with BEST’s online training, BEST Basics and BEST Leaders. Up to 18,000 employees of CWT will learn to identify and prevent sex trafficking within their day-to-day activities.

Carlson has always been ahead of their industry when it comes to raising awareness and funds to combat human trafficking. They have been working on this issue since the 1990s, when most hospitality businesses were afraid that if they addressed this problem it would cast a negative light on the industry.

“When [CEO] Marilyn Carlson took a public stand against sex trafficking, there were initial concerns about brand impact,” said Natalie Volin Lehr, Director of Corporate Affairs at CWT. “The outcomes have only been positive. Our commitment has sparked higher levels of employee engagement, increased our customer loyalty and enhanced our brand,” said Volin Lehr.

Even before they were members of the BEST Employers Alliance, CWT was committed to ethical business practices regarding the problem of child sexual exploitation. They were the first Untied States signer to the End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (EPCAT) Code of Conduct, and they created internal corporate policies to detect and deter human trafficking. They also trained and inspired their hotel staff to comply with these values. Carlson Wagonlit’s organization-wide code of business conduct and ethics states:

“The Company condemns all forms of commercial sexual exploitation of children. The    Company supports every child's right to a safe and secure childhood, and is committed to      the principle that everyone has the right to grow up and develop without fear of    exploitation or harm. The protection of children from sexual exploitation is a moral imperative, and socially responsible business   policies and practices must reflect this principle. The Company and its employees shall strictly comply with all applicable laws      and regulations regarding the prevention of the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including the prevention of the use of its premises for such exploitation.”

CWT also donates a portion of its profits to fund the Carlson Family Foundation. Since 2015, the organization has donated more than $1 million toward the issue of sex trafficking, supporting trafficking prevention efforts and services in their home state Minnesota and nationwide. Last year the foundation provided a grant to EPCAT for the creation of an employee training manual for all travel management and event companies. Even more recently, the foundation has focused on providing workforce development skills to survivors of human trafficking—a much needed role for businesses throughout the United States.

Looking forward, CWT has big plans. They have partnered with Clear Channel on the 2018 Super Bowl Anti-Trafficking Committee, and they will continue to fund organizations that prevent trafficking and provide jobs to human trafficking survivors.

CWT continues to inspire engagement by companies across sectors. Volin Lehr explains, “This issue is not confined to the hotel and travel industry. There are so many ways for all types of companies to get involved and make a real difference. BEST is a great example of the resources available to help.” Click this link to read more about Carlson’s responsible business practices.