Modern Slavery - can we really make a difference?
Updated: Nov 28, 2019
Modern Slavery – it’s talked about everywhere you look nowadays, but I hold my hand up and admit that I had to do some reading around this one to really understand not only the issue, but exactly what organisations and consumers can do about it.
According to Anti Slavery International, someone is in slavery if they are:
· forced to work – through coercion, or mental or physical threat;
· owned or controlled by an ’employer’, through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse;
· dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’;
· physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement.
There are estimated 40.3 million people in modern slavery around the world.
· 10 million children
· 24.9 million people in forced labour
· 15.4 million people in forced marriage
· 4.8 million people in forced sexual exploitation
So, you automatically think of the third world, but apparently the UK government estimates that there are tens of thousands of people in slavery in this country too.
Ok, that’s what it is, the question is now what organisations can do about it? I suppose contentiously you could say that companies mis-using zero hours contracts could be seen as a form of slavery (removing the rights of employees to take up additional employment). However, for the vast majority of businesses, involvement with slavery comes usually at the end of a fairly lengthy supply chain and is compounded by consumer desire for low prices. You’ll know it yourselves, but the more complex the supply chain, often the more reduced the cash by the time you get to the core producers, the labour intensive roles, frequently operating in poorer countries.
It’s a similar situation to climate change – it can be overwhelming, and an organization or individual can question how much change you can make. This is where sector collaboration comes in. If as a sector, organisations can work together to assess common product supply chains, then change can be made, and this, my friends is CSR at it’s finest. Sharing knowledge, experience and expertise for the good of a wider community and raising standards and reputation of the industry is where it is at.
Not an easy task, but not impossible with commitment, motivation and leadership.