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Business is responding to the UK’s Modern Slavery Act

Posted: 11/01/2017

The recent joint report and survey conducted by the Ethical Trading Initiative and Hult International Business School has found that the UK’s Modern Slavery Act is ‘galvanising leadership action in progressive companies’. Their report analysed corporate perspectives on tackling modern slavery. Its findings, amongst others, included: 

  • 97% of companies cited reputational risk resulting from public exposure to worker abuse in their supply chain or company operations as the biggest driver for company action on modern slavery;
  • 85% of companies are experiencing a greater level of interest and engagement from their customers in responsible sourcing issues;
  • 82% of companies believe that addressing human rights within their core business model is the most significant strategic indicator of corporate leadership on modern slavery;
  • 77% of companies surveyed think that there is a likelihood of modern slavery being found in their supply chain; and
  • 53% of companies are more actively engaging with peers since the Act was passed. 

Their report also found:

  • as companies start to map the risk in their supply chains, logistics, warehousing, cleaning and catering services, and temp and agency recruitment are being identified as risk areas;
  • 79% of companies cited senior leadership passion as a key driver for their modern slavery response. Most companies have made training and awareness raising for senior leaders a priority; and
  • addressing modern slavery is becoming a business critical issue – for credibility with customers, investors, NGOs and the general public. 

As more and more businesses engage in business and 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, which is a private members bill, is passed into law as drafted, it will require commercial organisations and public bodies to include a statement on slavery and human trafficking in their annual report and accounts. It will also require contracting authorities to exclude from public sector procurement procedures businesses that have not provided such a statement. This would make the production and publishing of an annual statement business critical for many businesses operating in the UK.

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