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Modern Slavery in Supply Chains

Ethical Consumerism

Slavery happens in Australia and in every region of the world.

Today, there are an estimated 40 million people in the world subjected to modern slavery (International Labour Organisation, 2017). Many of the products used every day by Australians have been found to be made by enslaved and trafficked people. This includes electronics, bricks, clothing, medical equipment and seafood.

Supply chains are the systems of production that link raw materials to the finished products you buy in shops. Exploitation can occur at any stage of a supply chain. Due to the global nature of production and trade, exploitation that occurred at an earlier stage in a supply chain, e.g. in Uzbekistan, India or Cambodia, affects the goods you can buy in Australia and around the world. This is why Anti-Slavery Australia is advocating for the introduction of strong supply chain laws, to ensure that Australian consumers are confident that the products they buy and use are not made by enslaved or exploited people.

What is happening in Australia?

Huge steps have been taken in 2017 to introduce laws to increase the transparency of supply chains of large organisations. There have been a number of State and Commonwealth government inquiries into human trafficking and modern slavery. Additionally, the business community has shown increased interest in tackling human trafficking and slavery in supply chains.

In December, the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade's Inquiry into a Modern Slavery Act in Australia released their final report Hidden in Plain Sight which recommended that Australia introduce a Modern Slavery Act and require businesses, organisations, government and other entities with revenue over $50 million report on what they are doing to combat modern slavery in their supply chains.

The Australian Government is also currently undertaking further public consultation on supply chain reporting requirements. The Modern Slavery in Supply Chains Reporting Requirement consultation paper advocates for the introduction of reporting requirements for Australian entities with revenues over $100 million. Entities will be required to report on their supply chains and operations, their risk of modern slavery, their policies and procedures, and their due diligences processes relating to modern slavery.

forced labour chart_ilo 2014

Figure 1 ILO 2014

What is Anti-Slavery Australia doing?

Anti-Slavery Australia continues to advocate for a strong Australian legal framework that makes it compulsory for Australian companies and other large entities to report on the actions they have taken to ensure that their supply chains and operations are free from modern slavery. This will help in the fight against modern slavery in Australia and around the world as most goods pass through many countries during the manufacturing stage before reaching Australia.

Anti-Slavery Australia supports a model of supply chain reporting with the following key features:

  1. A definition of modern slavery that includes slavery, human trafficking and the worst forms of child labour.
  2. The types of entities required to report should reflect the risk factors for modern slavery in supply chains, without unduly burdening Australian businesses and organisations. Risk-factors include supply chains that extend to countries and sectors with high risks of modern slavery such as agriculture and mining. Anti-Slavery Australia has advocated for revenue a threshold of $25 million.
  3. More robust requirements than found in the UK Modern Slavery Act, by requiring organisations to report on:
    1. The entity's structure, its operations and its supply chains;
    2. The modern slavery risks present in the entity's operations and supply chains;
    3. The entity's policies and processes to address modern slavery in its operations and supply chains and their effectiveness (such as codes of conduct, supplier contract terms and training for staff);
    4. The entity's due diligence processes relating to modern slavery in its operations and supply chains and their effectiveness;
    5. Any instances of modern slavery that have been identified in the entity's supply chain and the steps taken in response; and
    6. The entity's effectiveness in ensuring that modern slavery is not taking place in its business or supply chains, measured against such performance indicators as the entity considers appropriate.
    7. The establishment of a list of entities required to report and a central repository for the annual statements by the Australian Government. This will enable consumers, civil society and the Government to effectively monitor compliance with the reporting requirement and an entity's performance.
    8. A robust framework of penalties for failing to publish a report or publishing false or misleading reports. However, entities should not be penalised for discovering instances of modern slavery in their supply chains or operations.
    9. The creation the office of an independent Anti-Slavery Ombudsman or Commissioner to monitor the reporting requirement and develop best-practices approaches to eliminate modern slavery.
    10. The inclusion of public bodies such as government departments into the list of entities required to report. The Australian Government should take this opportunity to demonstrate global leadership in ethical and responsible business practices.

To view Anti-Slavery Australia's submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade's Inquiry into a Modern Slavery Act in Australia, see Anti-Slavery Australia submission.

What can you do?

Many resources already exist to help you make more ethical purchases.

The Good On You App helps you check on-the-go whether fashion brands have ethical policies regarding modern slavery and child labour. You can also check the Ethical Fashion Report by Baptist World Aid, to see whether brands are protecting their workers. Stop the Traffik Australia's Chocolate Box identifies chocolate companies that have ethical policies in place to ensure that their workers and suppliers are not subjected to modern slavery.

Australian consumers can also look at the statements of the many large Australian companies who are required to report under the UK Modern Slavery Act. This includes banks, retailers and airlines. You can view many of these statements on the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre's Modern Slavery Registry.


Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1 ILO 2014


Contact Us

Anti-Slavery Australia, University of Technology Sydney
Phone: +61-2-9514 9660