Modern slavery is very relevant to UK businesses and industry. Companies most often come into contact with modern slavery where there are complex global supply chains in action and one of the most important challenges facing procurement professionals is to ensure that their supply chains are not unwittingly involving exploitative labour – that as far as possible, they are ‘slavery proof’.
Modern slavery affects over 29 million people around the world (Walk Free Global Slavery Index, 2013). The term describes exploitation so severe that people are unable to leave their place of work. It refers to the condition of treating another person as if they were ‘owned’ property – to be bought, sold, traded or even destroyed. People in modern slavery are essentially ‘owned’ by their employers, and are controlled through a variety of means including massive recruitment debts that they are unable to pay off, and threats of harm and/or reporting to authorities for deportation/imprisonment if they do try to leave.
The Modern Slavery Act came into force in the UK 2015 and with it UK businesses have the opportunity to help end modern slavery in supply chains within a generation. We promote the CIPS’s work with the Walk Free Foundation in this issue and encourage all to accept that slavery exists here in the UK. We urge you to look for it and share the awareness with employees, suppliers, clients, so that we can all play our part in ending this appalling practice.
What can you do as a business?
The CIPS has started the debate to help UK businesses become ‘slavery free’. Following is an except of their recommendations to businesses.
Understand and commit: All organisations should understand modern slavery
and require their leaders to commit to taking a proactive role in ending it. The business environment should be intolerant of slavery and should drive slavery out of procurement to have ‘slavery-proof’ supply chains.
Leadership on auditing: Organisations should review their ‘risk and reputational management’ measure, pushing it to become an ethical imperative and essential operational measure driven by Chairpersons, CEOs, CPOs rather than PR teams. Organisations should engage reputable, independent auditors to undertake
rigorous audits of their supply chains and encourage effective dialogue throughout the business.
Accountability: Organisations should be accountable for business relationships and work to eliminate any vulnerabilities in supply chains. Where modern slavery or other human rights abuse is identified, organisations should take corrective action and work together with suppliers and business partners. The private sector should be transparent about actions taken and lead by example.
Procurement has a role to play. Procurement professionals have visibility and influence over supply chain decision-making, especially where on due diligence, how suppliers and tenders are evaluated and assessed, and in establishing business systems to deal with risk. CIPS recommends that procurement professionals address modern slavery in their supply chains by adopting the the ‘Three Ps’ – putting policies into place to prevent, detect and eradicate any abuse, establish processes to identify vulnerabilities in the supply chain and planning for situations where corrective action is needed.