What is modern slavery?
Although slavery has been legally abolished in most countries around the world, it remains a very real issue today; a recent estimate by the Global Slavery Index is that more than 45 million people are in slavery. Modern day slavery affects businesses and supply chains in developing and developed economies alike. Definitions for modern slavery vary, but generally refer to:
- Holding a person in servitude for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labour
- Arranging or facilitating human trafficking
Businesses' responsibilities under Modern Slavery laws
The UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights take the view that businesses should mitigate risks posed by business relationships. This has led to some jurisdictions, such as the State of California (California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010) and more recently the UK (Modern Slavery Act 2015), to enact new legislation to compel businesses to take action. They require businesses above a certain turnover threshold to publish a statement every financial year describing what steps the organisation has taken, if any, to ensure slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of its supply chains and in any part of its business.
This isn’t just about compliance. Being unaware of slavery and human trafficking issues in your business or supply chains can not only have legal consequences but can lead to:
- Financial and reputational loss
- Increased scrutiny and investigation by governments and NGOs
- The inability to attract top talent
Tackling modern slavery in your supply chain
In order to eliminate slavery and human trafficking from your business and supply chain, your organisation needs to take the following six steps:
1. Map your supply chains and identify your priority risk areas and suppliers
2. Carry out due diligence to understand your impacts
3. Develop policies and procedures to mitigate and monitor the risks