The Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires commercial organisations carrying out business in the UK with a global annual turnover in excess of £36 million to prepare and issue annual modern slavery and human trafficking statements.
Following the publication of the first statements, groups such as CORE, Ergon Associates and the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) have been collating the documents in one place (see here) and providing commentary on them. This commentary offers an interesting insight into what businesses are including in their statements and accordingly what is being done to respond to the risks associated with modern slavery both in their business and in their supply chains. However, the commentary also highlights what is not being done, and cites examples of businesses that the groups assert have not fully engaged with the reporting requirement or provided sufficient detail in their statements.
Last month, CORE published guidance entitled ‘Modern Slavery Reporting: Weak and Notable Practice’, the aim of which is to highlight areas for improvement in an effort to enhance standards of reporting and to increase accountability. CORE says that 84 per cent of statements uploaded to the BHRRC’s Modern Slavery Act Registry do not comply with the basic legal requirements and, overall, the general standard of reporting is low.
CORE’s guidance focuses on five areas that the Modern Slavery Act suggests businesses may report on, giving examples of weak and notable practice in relation to each. We pick out a few below:
There is an increasingly clear direction of travel. The trend of publicly commenting on modern slavery statements is gaining the attention of investors, consumers and staff and, as it continues, there is a real brand and legal risk to any business that is not demonstrating year on year notable reporting practice. Whilst the business risks associated with poor practice might help encourage better business compliance, the primary driver for business leaders should be a concern of being directly or indirectly associated with human exploitation and being accused of turning a blind eye to the role their business plays in that exploitation.