Modern Slavery

Combatting modern slavery for enhanced ESG performance

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Combatting modern slavery for enhanced ESG performance

A modern-day slavery programme is a necessary part of a clear ESG strategy, yet most companies fall short of basic expectations. Many companies see their approach to modern-day slavery as a paragraph on their website that declares their zero tolerance and that they will take any slavery allegations seriously. This is a simple tick-the-box approach to a serious issue. Every company should have a complete modern-slavery programme that is focused on eradicating any possibility that slavery exists in their own company or in their supply chain. 

Modern-day slavery exists in all parts of the world, but it is most prevalent in the following regions, as provided by Bard: 

  • The Asia-Pacific region is home to the largest number of people in slavery, with an estimated 40.3 million people living in conditions of modern slavery. The most common forms of slavery in Asia are forced labour, forced marriage and forced prostitution. 
  • Sub-Saharan Africa is home to an estimated 25.4 million people in slavery. The most common forms of slavery in Africa are forced labour, forced marriage and child labour. 
  • Latin America and the Caribbean is home to an estimated 16.1 million people in slavery. The most common forms of slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean are forced labour, forced marriage and child labour.
  • The Middle East and North Africa is home to an estimated 4.8 million people in slavery. The most common forms of slavery in the Middle East and North Africa are forced labour, forced marriage and child labour.
  • Europe is home to an estimated 2.5 million people in slavery. The most common forms of slavery in Europe are forced labour, forced begging and forced prostitution. 

It is important to note that these are just estimates, and the actual number of people in slavery is likely much higher. 

Modern-day slavery is a hidden crime, and it is often difficult to identify and prosecute cases of slavery. Several factors, including poverty, war and natural disasters, contribute to the prevalence of modern-day slavery. These factors can make people more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. 

Many companies simply haven’t tackled the issue – or are lacking the knowledge and skills on what to do. Some companies think the website paragraph is enough and the problem has gone away since they ticked the box. If there are issues around modern-day slavery in your supply chain, they will not just go away. In fact, they will likely just become more hidden. Slavery is organised crime, and those in slave-producing organisations can easily elude a questionnaire sent by your company. 

Until now, there have been few clear directives from standards organisations on building a comprehensive modern-day slavery programme. Some companies have chosen to use the ISO compliance management system standard (ISO 37301), which is the current ‘gold standard’ in managing these issues. The ISO standard can be certified by an ISO certification body (like Speeki). 

The British Standards Institution (BSI) has published a new guidance document on how organisations can respond to modern-day slavery. The document, BS 25700:2022, provides guidance on how to prevent, identify, respond to and remediate modern slavery in organisations of all sizes. It provides a useful guide to help companies build programmes on modern-day slavery issues. The BSI guidance works alongside ISO 37301. 

BS 25700 is based on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which state that businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights throughout their operations.  

BS 25700 provides guidance on the following key areas: 

Prevention – organisations should put measures in place to prevent modern slavery from occurring in their operations, supply chains and wider operating environment. This includes conducting due diligence, training employees, and developing clear policies and procedures. 

Identification – organisations should have systems in place to identify modern slavery risks and incidents. This includes monitoring and reporting, as well as whistleblowing procedures. 

Response – organisations should have a clear plan for responding to modern slavery incidents. This includes taking steps to protect victims, investigating the incident and taking corrective action. 

Remediation – organisations should take steps to remediate the effects of modern slavery. This includes providing compensation to victims and working to prevent future incidents. 

Reporting – organisations should publish an annual statement on their modern slavery risk management. This statement should include information on their prevention, identification, response, remediation and reporting activities. 

BS 25700 is a valuable resource for organisations that are committed to preventing and responding to modern-day slavery. The standard provides clear guidance on how to implement effective anti-slavery measures, and it can help organisations to build more ethical and responsible businesses. It follows a very consistent ISO-like process and is similar to ISO 37301 on compliance management systems. The two work together very well and can help eradicate these risks from your company and your supply chain. 

There are many benefits to using the ISO 37301 compliance management system standard combined with the BS 25700 guidelines. These benefits can include: 

  • improved quality – the documents provide a framework for organisations to improve the quality of their products and services, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty where customers see you as the ‘safe option’ with the strongest reputation and commitment to values and integrity in your supply chain
  • increased efficiency – streamlining processes and reducing wasted time and efforts leads to lower costs and improved profitability around your compliance initiatives, reduces risk and can help improve your supplier due diligence and onboarding
  • enhanced compliance – the ISO and BSI documents can help organisations comply with legal and regulatory requirements, including statutory obligations, industry obligations and internal requirements, reducing the risk of fines and penalties
  • improved risk management – the two standards can help organisations to identify and manage risks in their own company and in their supply chains, reducing the likelihood of the inadvertent use of slave labour and helping to quickly identify, investigate and fix issues around slavery when they occur
  • improved reputation – ISO management system certification and the use of BSI guidelines can help to improve an organisation’s reputation with customers, suppliers, investors and other stakeholders, leading to increased sales, improved access to capital and other benefits
  • improved communication – the documents provide a common language and framework for discussing issues around modern-day slavery
  • increased customer focus – the standards and guidance can help organisations focus on meeting the needs of their customers by providing a framework on how they manage the risk of using enslaved people in their manufacturing process
  • continuous improvement – both documents are based on the principle of continuous improvement, which means that organisations constantly look for ways to improve their compliance and meet the ever-increasing changes that slavery providers make to their organisations to get around transparency. 

The standards and guidance are available to anyone in any company – large, small, private, public, profit or non-profit, and in any country, language and industry. Speeki helps to build or audit and certify programmes under these standards and guidelines.

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