Enforcing Zero Tolerance for Modern Slavery in Supply Chain

June 13, 2024

It’s a sad truth that in today’s world, where supply chains span across continents, a disturbing reality lurks beneath the surface – the exploitation of human beings through modern slavery.

According to The Global Slavery Index 2023, it is estimated that around 122,000 people are in situations of modern slavery. This insidious practice not only violates fundamental human rights but also poses a significant threat to businesses’ reputations and ethical standing.

It goes without saying that any businesses associated with modern slavery will seriously damage their professional reputation, as well as losing clients and investors.

What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery encompasses various forms of exploitation, including forced labour, human trafficking, debt bondage, and child labour. It strips individuals of their freedom, dignity, and basic human rights, subjecting them to inhumane conditions and often physical and psychological abuse.

From July to September 2023, 4,138 potential victims of modern slavery were referred to the Home Office, representing a 4% increase compared to the previous quarter.

What is the impact of modern slavery on people and businesses?

The consequences of modern slavery are far-reaching and devastating. Victims endure unimaginable suffering, robbed of their autonomy and trapped in cycles of exploitation. This not only violates their fundamental human rights but also inflicts profound psychological and physical trauma.

For businesses, the reputational damage resulting from associations with modern slavery can be catastrophic. Consumer trust erodes, brand equity diminishes, and legal and financial repercussions can be severe.

Companies that fail to address this issue risk tarnishing their image and losing the confidence of stakeholders, customers, and the broader public.

If modern slavery is connected to your supply chain in any way, there could be serious legal ramifications.  The Modern Slavery Act 2015 clarifies modern slavery offences and ensure that perpetrators are suitably punished.  This Act requires larger businesses to prove what they have done to ensure there is no modern slavery in their business or supply chains.

Section 54 even demands that companies with an annual turnover above £36m (in the UK), develop a Modern Slavery Statement, referred to as a ‘Transparency in Supply Chains (TISC) statement’.

What are some common cases of modern slavery in the UK?

Several cases have brought the issue of modern slavery in supply chains to the forefront. According to a 2023 BBC article, cases of modern slavery in the care industry have doubled since 2022. In 2023, there were 109 potential victims of modern slavery, exploited for personal or financial gain. Since the government have made it simpler for social care staff from overseas to work in the UK, there have been even more modern slavery cases within this sector.

Cases of modern slavery not only tarnish the reputation of the organisations involved, but also highlight the urgent need for greater transparency and accountability in global supply chains. The charity, Unseen, who run an anti-slavery helpline, claim that the bigger a supply chain, the higher the chance for exploitation. So, managing the supply chain effectively and ensuring compliance among service providers is vital.

The business case for zero tolerance

Implementing a zero-tolerance policy towards modern slavery is not only an ethical imperative but also a strategic business decision. Companies that proactively address this issue can enhance their brand reputation, build consumer trust, and mitigate legal and financial risks.

By ensuring that suppliers and contractors adhere to ethical labour practices, businesses can foster a more sustainable and responsible supply chain, aligning with the growing demand for socially conscious and ethical business practices.

Taking Action: Ensuring Compliance and Ethical Practices

To combat modern slavery in supply chains, businesses must take proactive measures:

Conduct thorough due diligence

Implement rigorous screening processes to assess potential suppliers and contractors for any links to modern slavery practices. Prosure360, our supply chain management software, allows businesses to carry out pre-qualified assessments.

These cover subject matters directly linked to ESG practices, encompassing the requirements outlined in PAS91, including modern slavery, equality & Inclusion, quality, and sustainability.

Through conducting these assessments, businesses can guarantee that their service providers, suppliers, and contractors share a steadfast commitment to the ethical standards they uphold.

Establish clear policies and codes of conduct

Develop and enforce comprehensive policies that explicitly prohibit any form of modern slavery within your supply chain.

Provide training and awareness

Educate employees on identifying and reporting potential instances of modern slavery in the supply chain.

Collaborate and engage

Work closely with industry partners and stakeholders to share best practices, promote transparency, and drive collective action against modern slavery.

Implement monitoring and auditing systems

Regularly monitor and audit suppliers and contractors to ensure compliance with ethical labour practices and promptly address any identified issues. Prosure360 gives you full control of your supply chain, showing whether your contractors and suppliers meet your specific business requirements.

With real-time data, you can see an up-to-date analysis of your service providers, making it easy to keep track of their performance and certifications.  Prosure360 offers a level of customisation that no one else can match. With bespoke questions and pre-qualified assessments, our platform can be tailored to each client’s exact needs.

Prosure360 offers total visibility of your suppliers’ insurances, professional memberships, and financial status. This means that you can easily monitor and report on supplier performance, ensuring compliance and enabling informed decision-making.

By taking these steps, businesses can not only mitigate risks but also contribute to the global effort to eradicate modern slavery and promote ethical and sustainable business practices.

Modern slavery in supply chains is a grave violation of human rights and a significant threat to businesses’ reputations and ethical standing. Companies must adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards this unacceptable practice, not only to comply with legal and regulatory requirements but also to uphold their moral and ethical responsibilities.

By implementing robust due diligence processes, establishing clear policies, and implementing monitoring and auditing systems with supply chain management software, businesses can ensure that their supply chains are free from modern slavery practices.

Ultimately, addressing modern slavery is not just a matter of compliance but a fundamental ethical obligation. Companies that prioritise ethical and sustainable business practices will not only protect human rights but also enhance their brand reputation, build consumer trust, and contribute to a more just and equitable global economy.


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