Why a pending new Bill could be key for businesses to win the war on modern day slavery and exploitation
It was encouraging news to read two important developments in the war on modern slavery last week week.
The first was the introduction of the Modern Slavery (Transparency in Supply Chains) Bill. The second was the BSI Group’s new Trafficking & Supply Chain Slavery Patterns Index, which serves as a key tool for businesses to identify and address human rights abuses in their supply chains.
If you haven’t seen the latter as yet, in short the Index is unique in terms of cross-referencing source countries of displaced people and their probability of facing exploitation in destination countries.
As more and more companies engage human rights issues affecting their operations and supply chains, they should expect no let-up in the calls for business to do more. For example, if the Modern Slavery (Transparency in Supply Chains) Bill 2016-17 and currently a private members bill, is passed into law, it will require big businesses to report on slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains as part of their annual company statements.
It is a positive addition to the Modern Slavery Act, but there is still some way for businesses to go before the matter is solved completely.
According to a 2016 study by the British Institute of International & Comparative Law (BIICL) and Norton Rose Fulbright, just over half (51%) of 152 major companies surveyed had performed a dedicated human rights due diligence assessment, which covered the full range of a company’s human rights obligations.
However the report found that half of companies don’t even have dedicated human rights due diligence process. As a result, they are failing to pick up adverse human rights impacts in their business, and with third parties, including suppliers.
In the UK, the Modern Slavery Act of 2015 clearly highlights the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking, and the risk to business of finding examples of it in global supply chains. According to estimates by the National Crime Agency, there are that 13,000 men, women and children endure modern slavery or forced labour in the UK. Globally, an estimated 45.8 million people are in some form of modern slavery in 167 countries. And according to 50 for Freedom, a campaign led by the International Labour Organisation and its partners to ban forced labour, slavery is most prevalent in the following sectors:
- Domestic work
- Sexual exploitation
And at one point or another illegal profits generated by these industries will emerge in the financial system. Yet another reason why having an ethical, transparent supply chain, whatever your business type, plays such an intrinsic part in the war on slavery and people trafficking.
Companies are realising that they may be responsible for activities of their business partners and third-party suppliers. But as the BIICL and Norton Rose Fulbright report shows, unless a company undertakes specific human rights due diligence exercise, it is unlikely to identify the kinds of impacts linked to such third parties in its supply for which it may be responsible.
The new Bill, when passed, will provide an opportunity for companies to build greater resilience into their supply chains and by so doing, make a mark on stamping out slavery.
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