Trevor Little

  • TRACIT initiative unveiled in New York this week
  • Group led by ex BASCAP director Jeffrey Hardy
  • Anti-counterfeiting is one aspect of a wider illicit trade focus


A new private sector initiative, the Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT), was unveiled this week, with a mandate to “stop the significant and growing economic and social damages caused by illicit trade”.Director-General Jeffrey P Hardy told World Trademark Review that anti-counterfeiting efforts will be just one work stream, with the organisation aiming to foster a cross-sectorial effort against illicit trade in all of its guises.

Hardy is well-known in the anti-counterfeiting world, having served for many years as director of the International Chamber of Commerce’s Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP). He also served as director of the ICC G20 CEO Advisory Group, where he coordinated international business priorities on the G20 policy agenda related to trade, investment, energy and anti-corruption. It is this wider remit that will inform TRACIT’s approach to illicit trade. He explains: “I worked in the anti-counterfeiting area for over a decade – it’s been my passion for a long time: to help companies protect brand reputation and prevent loss of market share. But what I learned over the last couple of years was that this issue is much bigger than counterfeiting. Illicit trade is bigger in terms of economic loss and its impact on business, and it’s bigger in terms of the public agenda and governmental organisations trying to fight it. So my attention to the bigger problem grew and, with that, my desire to deliver a bigger solution grew.”

To that end, the work program focuses on facilitating the exchange of information and mitigation tactics across key industry sectors and business functions, with a view to reducing vulnerabilities in supply chains. A key emphasis will be on connecting businesses with governmental organisations. Hardy expands: “Part of starting anything like this is recognising a need. We identified two gaps. One is that we believe there is enormous potential for the intergovernmental community to work in a more interconnected way. No one can say that governments aren’t putting resources and priority behind these issues, because they are. Our question is ‘can we help make them more effective?’ The second gap is similar – what we are seeing is that there are ways that businesses can act across industries and sectors in a way they currently are not. For instance, in the anti-counterfeiting area there are a lot of business organisations and IGOs, and they do meet each other. But at their events you don’t typically see the supply chain experts, or other stakeholders from the mining or petroleum industry. Pharmaceuticals are there but are looking specifically at piracy and not necessarily the issue of sub-standards. Businesses are not doing nothing, but we think we can help them act together more effectively.”

The primary stated objective of the initiative, then, is to help businesses reduce vulnerabilities in markets and supply chains, mitigate losses and stimulate legal trade. As to how this will be practically achieved, it will be a combination of developing tools that business can share and use across industry sectors, along with an advocacy program to leverage government regulation and the controls already targeting illicit trade. In the immediate term, Hardy will be participating on an illicit trade panel during the WTO Public Forum, with public roundtables with UN stakeholders planned for New York and Geneva, as well as publication of an upcoming global study on illicit trade in partnership with the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Having “scoped out the mandate”, the next task for the organisation is to sign up members across the different sectors and organisation types. Hardy notes that the membership drive is not initially designed to build “a gigantic organisation with hundreds of members”, but is instead focused on key multi-national corporations: “The best way to move forward is to find a few champions and get around the table to have conversations that haven’t happened before on such a cross sectorial approach.”

As to the precise job function of those champions, he notes that this will differ from organisation to organisation: “There is value for a number of people in an organisation. Part of it is brand protection professionals but also supply chain managers, compliance officers, the government affairs folks responsible for CSR, etc. The way member groups I have worked with in past operate is that there is usually a leading personality from that corporation that serves as the hub – for instance at BASCAP, depending on what issue coming up, they would then channel it to their compliance or digital colleagues.”

The organisation is also seeking to work with other associations. Hardy explains: “There is a lot of good work being done against illicit trade in, say, the logging industry or by those tackling the illegal ivory trade that can be learnt from. Those in the pesticide industry have done a terrific job in putting in place first-class ‘know your customer’ programmes but have those in other industries even seen those types of things? Why start from ground zero if one industry already has this in place? So we may well see trade associations from a particular sector become a member, or join in an advisory capacity. There may be an anti-counterfeiting association that wants to be involved and will help us develop that work-stream.”

The prospect of professionals tasked with anti-counterfeiting benefitting from the experience of those tackling illicit trade in all its guises is an intriguing one, with Shelley Duggan, global brand protection leader at Procter & Gamble, endorsing the organisation in its launch press release: “The role of efficient and effective supply chains has never been more important – TRACIT can help us protect our global supply chain from exploitation by illicit traders, thereby lowering compliance costs, improving efficiencies and delivering quality to our consumers worldwide.”

Pooled resources and shared experience go a long way when tackling evolving threats. The key now is to get the right stakeholders around the table to kick off this new form of collaboration.

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