Modern slavery is a broad term that encompasses slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour and human trafficking. Distressingly, it is prevalent across the globe, as complex global supply chains make it extremely challenging to trace the provenance of components, and the conditions they were manufactured in. According to the most recent estimates from the Global Slavery Index, there are 40.3 million people in some form of modern slavery.
Many of the products we buy and use every day are produced by people trapped in modern slavery. Mobile phones, jewellery, clothes and food…some industries have a dark history of human exploitation and modern slavery. The Bureau of International Labor Affairs in the US identified the world’s top products involving child and forced-labor practices: gold, bricks, cotton, sugarcane, coffee and tobacco.
These are commodities that are absolutely ubiquitous in our lives. And as long as consumer culture continues the relentless drive for cheap products, organisations will continue to exploit millions to fulfill the demand, and protect their bottom line. Slavery can exist in all stages of the supply chain.
From the picking of raw materials such as cocoa or cotton, to the manufacturing of goods such as consumer electronics and clothing, and at later stages of shipping and delivery to customers.
Regardless of how honourable the intention is, the potential for inadvertently using victims of modern slave labour exists at almost every intersection in your supply chain. 71% of companies believe there is some likelihood of modern slavery in their supply chain, according to a study by the Ashridge Centre at Hult International Business School.
It is therefore critical that organisations implement processes for supply chain transparency, to ensure that there is no forced labour or other human rights violations behind any step of the product journey. While regulations like the Australian Modern Slavery Act will require companies to disclose reliable information about their business footprint, due diligence and transparency are key to ending modern slavery in supply chains.
Do you have good visibility throughout your supply chain?
Companies with leaders who provide a clear vision and drive for addressing ethical trade and modern slavery issues – as well as a pathway of accountability and support from the board, chief executive officer and senior team – are able to make more progress than those that do not. Supply chain management procedures are required, to check and ensure supply chains are meeting compliance with policies, international standards and local laws.
Request a copy of your suppliers’ Modern Slavery statements and conduct audits on those that fall into high-risk categories. Enquire into their operations, how they source labour and materials, and the prices they pay to their suppliers further down the supply chain. While the outsourcing of manufacturing is a popular choice to keep overheads down, the separation creates further challenges when seeking clarity in supplier practices.
Switching to in-house production gives much greater control and visibility throughout the sourcing and manufacture process, ensuring that your products are produced ethically. Do you have good visibility throughout your supply chain? Do you know the risks your supply chain is facing and the steps you need to take to ensure its transparency, and prevent modern slavery?
We a supply chain transparency platform that looks forward to connecting ethical brands with conscious consumers, and ambassadors all around the world, scaling businesses growth while creating a strong relationship between communities and brands for a sustainable future.
Together, we can end the atrocities of modern-day slavery and build a more sustainable and ethical future.