Engaging businesses in the fight against human trafficking will be huge step forward

Engaging businesses in the fight against human trafficking will be huge step forward

3rd December 2012

At a reception to mark anti-human trafficking day last year, the Prime Minister declared that he wanted the UK to lead the world in eradicating modern day slavery.

A Private Member’s Bill making its way through Parliament will help us do that.

The Transparency in UK Company Supply Chains (Eradication of Slavery) Bill will encourage businesses to conduct audits of their supply and product chains to check that they are not contaminated by modern slavery.

It is different from most legislation because it positively invites businesses to engage with the objective of eradicating modern slavery.

As I said when I launched the Centre for Social Justice’s Modern Slavery in the UK Review (which will be published in January), if we are to eradicate slavery successfully then it will take the combined collaborative efforts of not only NGOs and the public, but also business and government.

This is an opportunity to do just that. It is only correct that the Government must lead, but what people like about this legislation is that it is light touch. It combines voluntary implementation with compulsory disclosure. It will enable the public and purchasers to hold a business to account and to see what efforts they make to ensure supply and product chains are free of modern slavery and trafficking.

As the CEO of Unseen I would actively support those companies who begin the process of eradicating slavery. We urgently need to change the mindset that not only sees the presence of slavery as wrong, but one that motivates us to eradicate it and eliminate the risks of it happening again. It should be the norm that businesses are looking for the problem without fear of reprisal and I know of no business leader who would not want to sign up for this.

The Bill focuses on companies with a turnover of more than £100million, therefore giving bigger firms the opportunity to take the lead and design best practices, which smaller businesses can replicate to scale.

This legislation sends a positive message, not negatively forcing companies’ hands, but encouraging them to look into the problem. Best practices that exist can be uncovered and shared, increasing the positive social impact of companies.

In the global market place, there has been a step change in attitude that says – if you cannot afford to do global business ethically, you cannot afford to do business. This Bill enforces that positive message.

If politicians will give the lead by enacting this Bill, if companies and NGOs positively engage, and consumers proactively push companies in a race to the top, then we will have collectively taken a huge stride forward in the fight to eradicate modern slavery.

A business leader involved in the supply chain audit for 20 years said recently: “It never occurred to me this was an issue to me until I came across it in our supply chain and I realised it wasn’t going to be an isolated incident.”


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