Are You Ready to Act on Risks from Modern Day Slavery?
Written by Sudeep Chakraborty
Historically, many anti-slavery movements took place in Western Europe and the Americas to end the African and Indian slave trade. Unfortunately, by the 19th century when slavery was believed to be eradicated from the face of the earth, it was merely changing its form to continue hurting people in every part of the world. In the 21st century, it has taken the form of modern slavery, also commonly known as contemporary slavery or neo-slavery. Modern day slavery refers to the situation when anyone is
- enforced to work, exploited or controlled by use of mental or physical duress;
- physically restricted or constrained to exercise their freedom of movement;
- treated as a product and dehumanized.
Modern slavery takes many forms:
Modern Slavery in Numbers
Strong Response in the Making
The world of work is changing rapidly. Strengthening social protection to leave no one behind has become today’s mantra. The G20 has taken an important step in this direction when they signed the declaration to reaffirm their pledge to promote innovative skills policies, strengthen social protection and formalize labor markets to make them more equitable and inclusive.
Some nations already have strong laws to address the issue of modern slavery while others are following their lead:
In the coming years, these laws and their enforcement will become more stringent. Non-compliance will impact companies in many ways:
- Non-compliance risks reputation damage and competitive disadvantage
- Financial impact due to penalties for non-compliance
- Introduction of new functions and designations such as Anti-Slavery Officer
- Additional reporting and documentary requirements
- Increased complexity in due diligence processes for partners and suppliers
Companies must develop a comprehensive action plan to ensure compliance with appropriate location specific anti-slavery laws.
Here are a few guidelines for proactively monitoring risk events that could arise from non-compliance:
- Perform due diligence on suppliers and partners
- Switch to continuous risk monitoring
- Be prepared with prevention and mitigation plans
- Ensure adherence to ethical business practices
- Examine if previous business contracts were performed ethically
- Introduce strong contract clauses to prevent any unethical practices by partners or suppliers
- Report violations to the concerned authorities and regulatory bodies
With changing times and increasing focus on eliminating human rights abuse, companies must stay updated with existing and upcoming laws and policies in the locations of their operations. They should be prepared to comply with such laws and policies by identifying areas where there is a high risk of forced labor or any other modern slavery practices in their own operations and along their sourcing chains and other business partners. Companies should also take appropriate action to address those risks and also implement procedures to ensure that new and existing relationships remain compliant. This due diligence process can be complex. We recommend engaging the services of an experienced counsel.
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