We are delighted the Government accepted our proposals when it published its response to the public consultation on the UK Modern Slavery Act Transparency in Supply Chains Clause.
Today David Cameron announced that all UK companies with an annual turnover of £36m or more that produce goods and services and conduct their business in the UK and abroad will be required to complete an annual slavery and trafficking statement. The legislation will be in force from October 2015, and within a year of that, all companies will be expected to publicly share their policies and strategies to tackle modern slavery in their supply chains.
Cindy Berman, ETI Head of Knowledge and Learning, said: “This is welcome news; the £36m threshold is what we called for in our submission. We believe that by setting it at this level, the Government is going a long way to help level the playing field for businesses that are committed to operating ethically. It will avoid the problem of unfair competition from unscrupulous companies that have been operating below the radar and undermining the efforts of socially responsible businesses.
“That’s why ETI’s member companies, together with the trade unions and NGOs, called for this measure, and wanted to keep the threshold as low as possible. Our members want to lead by example, and we are supporting them to do more than simply manage and mitigate the risks of modern slavery, but to actively prevent slavery from occurring in their supply chains in the first place.”
Berman said, “Make no mistake – this won’t be easy. It will involve a deep dive into the supply chain to understand what’s really going on many tiers down – getting visibility of the many layers to truly see the conditions of workers at the bottom of the chain. And where slavery is found, we want companies to be open about it and be recognised for their efforts to investigate, uncover problems and provide remedy. The message to companies is clear – it is no longer an option to stay below the radar, refuse to take responsibility for problems in your supply chain and hope you won’t get exposed.”
ETI believes this legislation is a game-changer, and can really make the difference in raising the bar on workers’ rights, ending the cycle of exploitation and abuse of workers in the long-term. Workers must be at the heart of these efforts; negotiating their own terms and conditions directly with their employers, with access to redress and grievance mechanisms where their rights have been violated.
UK businesses have a real opportunity to provide global leadership in driving transparency across their operations, and in modelling good practice on preventing modern slavery. We strongly believe this will have a knock-on effect on companies operating in other countries around the world. Collaboration and partnership is key; modern slavery is an international problem and tackling it requires a concerted and coordinated effort on all fronts.
We also welcome the Government’s forthcoming statutory guidance that will set out expectations for reporting by companies. ETI has offered to help the Government in drafting this guidance, drawing on our extensive experience of tackling abuse and exploitation of workers in global supply chains.