‘Critical mass’ of vigilance needed to eradicate slavery from supply chains

Members of CORE including Amnesty International and UNICEF UK, along with our allies Homeworkers Worldwide and Quaker Peace & Social Witness have called for a ‘critical mass’ of vigilance to help eradicate slavery from company supply chains.

The UK’s Modern Slavery Act, passed on 26th March 2015 includes a clause requiring companies operating in the UK to report annually on the steps they have taken to ensure that their international supply chains are slavery-free.

CORE’s campaigning was instrumental in securing the supply chains provision in the new Act.

Prior to the UK General Election, the Home Office launched a consultation to help determine which companies the new requirement should apply to. The consultation also covered the content of the guidance on supply chain reporting that the government will provide to accompany the Act.

In responses to the consultation, charities and campaign groups have urged the government to ensure that the new requirement creates a level playing field for companies.

The consultation document suggested a range of turnover thresholds for requiring a business to make a slavery and human trafficking statement. The lowest of these – £36million – is described by Amnesty International as ‘the only credible option’.

The Home Office proposal that there should be a higher turnover threshold set initially to focus on larger businesses and reducing to cover more businesses, over time, was rejected. UNICEF UK commented that, ‘The UK should start as it means to continue by requiring more, not fewer, companies to be transparent about their operations. This will have a knock-on effect on companies operating in other countries around the world as well as setting the bar for other governments seeking to introduce similar measures.’

All organisations strongly agreed that companies’ slavery and trafficking statements should include information on: organisational structure, business and supply chains; company policies on modern slavery; due diligence processes; risks of modern slavery; and effectiveness in ensuring that modern slavery is not taking place in its business or supply chains.

CORE’s submission to the consultation also stressed the need for the government to clarify that the new measure applies to subsidiaries, and for a central repository of company reports to be created to enable the effectiveness of the new measure to be monitored.

The Home Office is currently analysing the consultation responses and we expect proposals to be published in the next few months.