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A Zero Tolerance Approach to Modern Slavery in the Supply Chain

From health and safety hazards to data breaches, there are many risks that can threaten your business and supply chains. With an estimated 25 million people worldwide victims of forced labour according to the United Nations, a zero tolerance approach against modern slavery in your operations and supply chains is vital so that any risks of exploitation don’t go undetected.

Increasing legal requirements and expectations from consumers, customers, employees and stakeholders mean that responsible businesses need to place tackling modern slavery at the heart of their activities.

The reputational damage organisations face if exposed as having slavery within their supply chain has been well documented. In July 2020, fashion brands Boohoo and Quiz were publicly called to account on modern slavery, aimed at suppliers who were paying workers below the minimum wage or forcing people to work with coronavirus symptoms. As a result, Boohoo’s share price fell. Both companies have announced extensive reviews of their supply chains and auditing processes, while Boohoo announced that it would invest £10 million to eradicate supply chain malpractice.

The UK government recently set out proposed changes to the Modern Slavery Act 2015 which, when implemented, will strengthen the current requirements and “hold businesses and public bodies accountable” for tackling modern slavery in their supply chains.

Under the proposals public bodies will now be brought into the scope of the legislation. From due diligence to risk assessment, organisations with a budget of £36 million or more in all sectors will need to be even more transparent about the work they’re doing to safeguard responsible practices, protect vulnerable workers and eradicate modern slavery risks.

A consultation has also begun on further measures to prevent slavery in supply chains which include establishing a single enforcement body to “better protect vulnerable workers” and “civil penalties for non-compliance”.

Proposed changes to modern slavery statement requirements

Under the changes businesses and public bodies will be required to publish modern slavery statements on a digital government reporting service. The six reporting areas that will be mandatory are:

  1. the organisation’s structure, its business and supply chains

  2. policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking

  3. due diligence processes in the business and its supply chains relating to slavery and human trafficking

  4. the areas within the business and supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking taking place, and the steps taken to assess and manage that risk

  5. the effectiveness of measures that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its business or supply chains, measured against performance indicators

  6. staff training about slavery and human trafficking

Respecting the increasing importance of responsible business practices is just as integral to the way we work when choosing contractors and suppliers to make sure the products and services they deliver are safe and of the highest quality. Therefore, contractors need to comply with the same ethical standards and values that your business does.

In our latest research, Benchmarking Contractor Management, we found that the importance of assessing contractors and suppliers for ethical and sustainable compliance, including modern slavery, has increased following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Pre-COVID-19, 88% of respondents rated the vetting of contractors for ethical and sustainable compliance as ‘important’ or ‘very important’. Post-Lockdown, while the percentage of respondents rating very important fell, those that said ‘important’ or ‘very important’ increased to 92%.
 

Steps to prepare your supply chain for the upcoming legislative changes

  1. Review your modern slavery statements and identify areas which require further attention.

  2. Review your policies and processes to assess what changes you need to make to comply with the new requirements, in particular mapping your supply chains and due diligence when appointing suppliers to identify concerns and risks occurring at any stage of supply chains.

  3. Consider new areas that the government may introduce, such as disclosure of instances of modern slavery and whistleblowing processes.

At Alcumus SafeContractor, we have 20 years of experience helping hundreds of businesses across many industry sectors to make sure their suppliers are safe to partner with. To find out how SafePQQ can provide your organisation with greater visibility of supply chain compliance, visit www.safecontractor.com/safepqq.