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Fighting modern slavery: Three steps to change the world

Anthony Stevens |

March 12, 2020


Fighting Modern Slavery

Three steps to change the world…

Modern Slavery is one of the hottest topics in boardrooms around the world currently.  

And it makes the news far too often.  

For example, a report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (funded by the US State Department) recently alleged some of the factories that supply Nike, Apple and Adidas appear to be using Uighur workers sent directly from Chinese Government maintained re-education camps. 

A Nike spokesman told The Washington Post that “we respect human rights in our extended value chain, and always strive to conduct business ethically and responsibly”. OK, a standard reply. Not to be outdone, Apple said it would work with suppliers to ensure its standards are upheld.” Goodness me. 

Agreed, those could be called classic examples, but let’s remember that the tentacles of Modern Slavery have even reached into world-famous soccer stadiums, Swedish berry picking farms and a major manufacturer, contracted to build Australia’s new high-capacity trains. 

By not addressing Modern Slavery, businesses with supply chains may as well hold the door open to no less than 3 of the current top 10 global business risks (legislation regulation / business interruption / loss of brand value). 

If you consider yourself to be a business of reputable standing, then no doubt you do not want your supply chain plagued with the blight of forced labour and other Modern Slavery breaches.  

Sadly, the issue of Modern Slavery is growing. Global food, services and clothing production chains are contaminated with Modern Slavery. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) forced labour generates $150 Billion each year, minimum. After drugs and arms, human trafficking is now the third biggest crime business in the world. The ILO has also stated that within 50 major global corporations, up to 94% of the global workforce is hidden. Meaning that this important obligation has been outsourced time and again. 

Taking the time to properly and accurately assess the risks relevant to your business is fundamental feature of successful business practice.  

It is vital that transparency and due diligence are continually practiced in order to bring an end to Modern Slavery in supply chains. 

Broadly speaking, compliance with Modern Slavery legislation – including Australia’s Modern Slavery Act 2018 – can be approached in three steps. 

3 Easy Steps to Modern Slavery Compliance How-To

Step 1: Assessment

Here is where you take a good look at your supply chain and start to poke holes in it to find the areas of risk within. We hope that you didn’t blindly sign any contracts with third-party vendors, yet here is where you can assess them and get a sense of where you stand in your future dealings with them. 

Assessments have many added benefits, like transparency with stakeholders in your supply chain, paving the way for continued collaboration. 

Step 2: Remediation

Once your assessment is complete, you may be like many organisations and find that your modern supply chain is riddled with issues of Modern Slavery. Or, you could be squeaky cleanhooray! 

If any of your suppliers show up as a ‘high-risk’, you will need to take immediate action toward them. If you don’t have experience with this, fear not, simply find a consultant of good reputation. They will be able to provide you with content and solution processes. 

The controls you will find here in this step should then be a part of your annual risk reviews 

Step 3: Reporting

Here is where you need to not only find a way to generate a powerful report to the board and a Modern Slavery Statement – but be able to prove it. Seeing as you’re here, may I mention 6clicks Compliance Proof TM. With our native feature you can provide irrefutable proof by giving your clients access to a specialised section of your 6clicks account that has timestamped, detailed evidence of the assessment process needed for compliance with Modern Slavery legislation. 

Automaton: doing this the smart way 

And now for the plug, but really, just an opportunity to save you time and money. 6clicks is a platform for risk management and compliance. Helping automate the assessment and risk assessment aspects of compliance is what we do best, whilst ensuring traceability back to the legislation and defined policies. You *could* do all of the above with spreadsheets, but why would you with the affordability and ease of use!?

OK, plug over.

Thank you for taking the time to read. Below are some handy links and insights if you want some light bedtime reading 

– At any given time, an estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage.

– It means there are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world.

– 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are children.

– Out of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labour, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture; 4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities.

– Women and girls are disproportionately affected by forced labour, accounting for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors

What is Modern Slavery?

Modern Slavery is used to describe practices such as forced or unethical labour (adults and children) removal of organs, debt bondage, slavery, human trafficking and slavery-like exploitation practices. Because the term encompasses so many different areas, there is no globally agreed definition of ‘modern slavery’.  

Whilst many advocacy groups, governments and international organisations are using the term to reference a wide range exploitative crime, The Walk Free Foundation submitted the below with regards to definition: 

This term is an update of the term ‘contemporary forms of slavery’ which was used for decades by the United Nations to address the same issues. We use this term because it is consistent with international efforts and legislation including the UK Modern Slavery Act, it is increasingly internationally recognised (in academic circles and mainstream media) and, critically, it is one that a range of stakeholders are increasingly familiar with, including the private sector and civil society.  

Here is what the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) submitted: 

While ‘modern day slavery’ might be useful as an advocacy and umbrella term that seeks to bring together the variety of situations in which a person is forcibly or subtly controlled by an individual or a group for the purpose of exploitation, UNODC notes that there is no internationally agreed definition of ‘modern day slavery’ or ‘modern slavery’, let alone the legal definition of the term.

Modern Slavery Australia Definition 

It has been submitted that the definition of ‘modern slavery’ in Australian legislation base itself from the various globally agreed definitions of crimes as defined by international law. 

The world’s oldest international human rights organisationAnti-Slavery International, submitted: 

… this question of, “What is slavery?” is not a matter for social scientific contention. It is something that has been established in international law as a result of considerable effort over the past 100 years to provide a robust framework for the continuing struggle against slavery. National law should pay close attention to this international framework.