Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act, with its reporting requirement for large businesses operating in the UK, has forced the business community to discuss the topic of slavery openly. The Commissioner has worked with business leaders to ensure they understand this and act accordingly.
Since October 2015 any commercial organisation which supplies goods or services, and carries on a business or part of a business in the UK, with a turnover of above £36 million, is required to publish an annual statement which describes the steps they have taken to ensure that modern slavery does not take place in their business and supply chains anywhere in the world.
There is evidence of slavery in different stages of supply chains, from the production of raw materials, such as cocoa, cotton, or fishing, to the manufacturing of everyday goods, such as mobile phones and clothes. Because of the complexity of modern supply chains, a final product will typically pass through a long chain and is therefore rarely untouched by slave labour.
The Commissioner has continuously called on businesses to embed action on slavery throughout their business and across all functions. Businesses should have clear action plans in place, including risk mapping, ongoing due diligence, remediation processes and working relationships with law enforcement, labour inspection and expert charity organisations.
The Commissioner builds relationships with businesses, trade bodies and others involved in the business and human rights field to support businesses in their efforts to tackle modern slavery. As a result of this activity, and through speaking at dozens of industry events, the Commissioner has been able to work with and influence top level executives. The Commissioner has also spoken directly to Boards of large companies to drive a change in attitude and behaviours at the most senior level.
One year on from Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act coming into force, the Commissioner wrote to over 1000 companies operating in the UK. He outlined the fact that some companies are making good progress and more open discussions are being had – but reporting remains weak and needs to improve. Two years on from the Act, the Commissioner wrote to a quarter of the FTSE 100 companies calling for an improved response to modern slavery.