Millions around the world are trapped in modern slavery in supply chains of big businesses. As world leaders attend the World Economic Forum (WEF), the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland OBE, urges business leaders to take ownership of their role in the fight against modern slavery.


The Global Slavery Index estimates that there are 45.8 million people enslaved around the world. Whether it is trafficked women and girls picking tea leaves for our daily consumption or children mining for cobalt to be used in mobile phones, people are suffering at the hands of slave masters in complex supply chains of leading businesses.


The Commissioner believes that CEOs and business leaders have to be part of the solution of this global crime. They need to lead by example and do everything within their power to ensure that business models make no room for exploitation.


“This isn’t just a case of questionable business ethics” says the Commissioner. “This is bad business. Brutal business. Business that is dependent on the exploitation and enslavement of the vulnerable. In fact, one could argue this is not business at all. It is organised crime, booming at the hands of business leaders around the world.”


The theme of this year’s World Economic Forum is ‘responsive and responsible leadership’. The Commissioner is therefore urging leaders to take responsibility for the consequences of business models that, in our globalised world, are allowing for labour exploitation and slavery to thrive.


“Business leaders have a responsibility to cut ties with suppliers who cut corners” says the Commissioner. “The existence of slavery is disgraceful but discovering it is indispensable. Slavery cannot be fought if it is not found.  Business leaders must ensure that employment, recruitment and trade are ethical, responsible and transparent.”


The Commissioner says that too many businesses view success solely through the lens of profit, with disregard for people, and hopes that conversations at Davos will lead to a view of success in terms of sustainable growth and the ethical treatment of workers. “Employees work in supply chains of top businesses without pay, without time off and ultimately, without freedom. This cannot continue.


“By giving attention to this at the World Economic Forum, I hope influential world and business leaders change their view of success; success must no longer be sought at the cost of freedom for fellow man.”