It may seem shocking, but a simple trip to the local store to pick up fresh produce or clothing could enable human exploitation. For investors, those same connections can exist within their portfolios—and it takes more than a passive effort to root them out.

Modern slavery—the use of forced labor and other human rights abuses in company supply chains and operations—is officially illegal. But it remains all too prevalent in many countries, including developed nations (Display). According to one estimate, 40.3 million people—one in every 185 people on the planet—were victims in 2016. Most were women and girls.*

Consumers are becoming more aware of the problem and starting to push back—for obvious ethical reasons. So are investors, as they apply an environmental, social and governance lens to companies to strengthen their fundamental research and foster higher conviction in their holdings.

To get the research right, investors must combine a big-picture view of countries and industries with an exacting, up-close lens on every aspect of a company’s business model and supply chain—because ties to modern slavery can be hidden and complex.

The True Cost of a Weekly Shopping Trip

How pervasive is this social evil, and how challenging is the battle for investors to surface and address it? A simple trip to the store tells the tale.