Impact of the UK Modern Slavery Act after a year – Stronger Together training named as example of good practice

November 14, 2016 6:50 pm, Published by , Leave your thoughts

In the last weeks several reports have been published which give insight into the impact the UK Modern Slavery Act has had in its first year.

Corporate leadership on modern slavery” by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and Hult International Business School

ETI and Hult carried out research amongst 71 prominent brands and retailers perceived as leaders regarding ethical trade and tackling modern slavery, to find out what ‘good’ looks like for companies seeking to address modern slavery. 25 companies (including 2 categorised as Food & Drink and 4 as Both Food & Drink / Retail) were interviewed and another 46 brands participated in an in-depth survey.

The research key findings are:

  • The Modern Slavery Act has been a game-changer
  • Addressing modern slavery is becoming a business-critical issue – for credibility with customers, investors, NGOs and the general public
  • Companies are making significant progress in addressing modern slavery
  • Companies face numerous barriers, challenges and dilemmas in addressing modern slavery

42% of companies see the length and complexity of supply chains as one of the strongest barriers to effectively addressing modern slavery.

  • Senior leadership engagement is crucial
  • Collaboration and partnerships are the way forward

Companies strongly believe effective engagement and action in partnership with governments, NGOs and charities, and other local stakeholders is critical for significant change.

ETI’s head of knowledge and learning and report co-author Cindy Berman said: “At the strategic level, senior leaders in progressive companies are stepping up to the plate and recognising their responsibilities. But even for these companies, their journey to tackle endemic human rights risks in their businesses is just beginning, and none can confidently say they have cracked the problem.”

But we were pleased to see a recognition by companies that in addition to getting their own house in order, they need to work with others, engage with governments, and call on independent advice and expertise.”

FTSE 100 at the starting line” by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC)

BHRRC analysed the 27 first FTSE 100 modern slavery and human trafficking statements. In the report’s press release, BHRRC says: “The majority of company statements for the UK Modern Slavery Act demonstrate weak risk assessment and due diligence. Most of the twenty-seven FTSE100 companies that have reported so far are missing the opportunity to provide much needed leadership to eradicate forced labour from business operations and supply chains.”

M&S was one of the two best scoring companies. Providing detail on M&S good practice the report states that:

M&S provides bespoke Modern Slavery training for M&S Food suppliers. In addition, all UK M&S Food suppliers employing migrant workers are required to have attended Stronger Together workshops, and to have cascaded the training within their supply bases. Over 200 attendees from the M&S supply base have taken part in this training to date.”

The key findings of the report are:

  • The highest performing companies (M&S and SABMiller) provided details on their risks, detail instances of modern slavery and explain how these have been addressed;
  • No companies reach the top two tiers of the ten-tier statement ranking system used by BHRRC (tier one representing excellence and tier ten indicating no, or only cursory, effort); the majority of companies languish in the bottom half.
  • Most companies provide very little information on the structure and complexity of their supply chains. Even less information is available on specific risks in the supply chain, both with regard to the type of risk and where in the supply chain the risk was identified (sector or location);
  • Efforts to measure the company’s effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in business or supply chains was the lowest scoring category. 15 companies provide no meaningful information on how they measure their effectiveness at combatting slavery. Only M&S and Vodafone report developing performance indicators.
  • Only 15 (56%) company statements fully and explicitly comply with the minimum requirements of the Act (i.e. they had explicit board approval, were signed by the appropriate person and a link to the statement was found on the company homepage). One company did not meet any of the requirements.

Has the Modern Slavery Act had an impact on your business?” by Ergon and Historic Futures

On Anti-Slavery Day, Ergon Associates and Historic Futures published a report on the impact of the Modern Slavery Act in its first year, based on a survey with 34 companies.

The key findings of their survey as reported in “Has the Modern Slavery Act had an impact on your business?” are:

  • Regarding understanding and awareness of modern slavery issues, the Act has catalysed internal dialogue, including at director level;
  • In relation to planning and engagement, the Act has led to an increased focus on policy development, risk assessment and monitoring of modern slavery;
  • In terms of data collection and measurement – information about supply chains and supply chain risk is currently collected in an ad hoc way;
  • Most companies have yet to put in place mitigation and remedial action plans related to modern slavery.

Visit our Resources page to download free toolkits and other guidance on how to tackle modern slavery in your business or register for our training to learn about how you can implement good practice to prevent and end modern slavery in your operations and supply chains.

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