Modern Slavery in the supply chain - part one

Supply Chain Management

There is a growing focus on modern slavery from pressure groups, the media and legislatively, which has resulted in the enactment of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 within the UK on 26th March 2015.

This article explores what is meant by modern slavery, how prevalent it may be in supply chains, what this can mean to your reputation and profits, what the Act and other associated legislation requires and how Profiler may help with your supply chain visibility as well as complying with legislative requirements.

What exactly is modern slavery?

Modern slavery takes many forms and can be associated with debt bondage, captivity, forced and child labour, sweatshops, and human trafficking. Migrant workers, indigenous people, children and other vulnerable groups are a high proportion of victims, although anyone may become a victim. It is a problem that transcends age, gender and ethnicities.

Disturbing cases within the UK, such as the vulnerable man who was forced to work unpaid on a farm for 16 hours a day for 13 years in Newport, South Wales, indicate that it is not an issue confined to the developing world, but a truly global problem. This and other incidents like it have brought home the very real fact that slavery is not something confined to the past with the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.

What is the scale of the problem?

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that almost 21 million people are currently working some form of forced labour. The Global Slavery Index, produced by the Walk Free Foundation, estimate is even higher at 35.8 million people in modern slavery globally.

The vast majority of these victims are exploited by private individuals or enterprises in sectors ranging from domestic work, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and entertainment as well as sexual exploitation.

Could modern slavery be within my supply chain?

The modern world consists of supply chains that are longer, more integrated, complex and global than ever before. It is a world of migrant workers, sub-suppliers and a constant squeeze on costs.

In research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) in July 2014 11% of UK businesses polled thought it ‘likely’ that modern slavery exists in their supply chain.

The research also uncovered that almost three quarters (72%) of British supply chain professionals have zero visibility of their supply chains beyond the second tier with only 11% saying they have visibility along the entire chain.

This difficultly in knowing everyone who is involved in the supply chain from source materials to end product leads to significant risk. If it is difficult to gain visibility of who is involved in the supply chain, it is even harder to gage their intentions and business practices.

What can the implications be for my business?

A Walk Free Foundation survey confirmed that 66% of British consumers would switch brands and 53% would pay higher prices to avoid modern slavery in the products they buy. The same survey in other countries produced similar results.

Various big named high street garment and footware retail brands, such as Nike and Primark, have been accused of having sweatshops within their supply chain. Pressure groups and media exposés have highlighted the plight of workers often working and living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions on less than minimum wage pay, with no chance of leaving the employment due to having passports confiscated. These revelations have shocked consumers and inevitably resulted in a damage to reputation and loss of profit that has lasted for years.

In a highly competitive market environment no organisation can afford a scandal highlighting modern slavery in their supply chain that may cost them customers.

In the second part of this blog - published Tuesday the 28th of July -  we look at what can be done to address this problem, find out what Santia can do for your Supply Chain by clicking here.

Post date: 29 Jun 2015

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