Launch: The role of the financial sector in eradicating modern slavery


The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton, has today published a new review of her engagement with financial services CEOs, making five recommendations on how the sector should be addressing modern slavery.


Following January's launch of Preventing Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking: an agenda for action across the financial sector, a report jointly produced with Themis and the Tribe Freedom Foundation, Dame Sara wrote to 51 CEOs in the financial sector. She asked them what steps their organisations were taking to address modern slavery concerns in their businesses, supply chains, lending and investment portfolios. Forty four organisations responded, ranging from international banks to investment platforms, building societies and digital payment companies.


This review of the CEO letters highlights examples of best practice, both within individual financial organisations and through collaborative efforts. It also assesses the sector’s overall progress in tackling modern slavery risk.


The Commissioner has now set out five recommendations to the sector covering: 


  1. Risk management and mitigation 

  2. Systems for sharing

  3. Collective action

  4. Collaboration on electronics supply chains

  5. Reporting of investment and lending portfolios under Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act


Read the full review here.


Dame Sara Thornton, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said:

“ While slavery is illegal in every country in the world, our economic and financial systems appear to tolerate and even promote practices which result in unacceptable abuse of workers. There is high global demand for cheap goods and services exacerbated by high investor expectations of profit. And sadly there are significant numbers of vulnerable workers who feel they have no choice but to work in unsafe and exploitative jobs, frequently in debt to their unscrupulous employers and facing menace and threat on a daily basis. Governments bear significant responsibility in remedying this but business itself must do more to protect the most vulnerable workers in fields, farms and factories across the world.

"I am encouraged by the responses that I received from organisations in the financial sector, many of which were detailed and demonstrated clear intent to effect real change. I am convinced that the only way this will be achieved is if business leaders set the tone from the top and commit to eradicating all forms of coercive labour practices.

"The financial services sector should ensure that it integrates modern slavery and human trafficking risk across all its business processes, in the same way that it has approached environmental risk.”