Despite being abolished over 150 years ago, it seems slavery not only still exists but is thriving. In the last year alone, a number of businesses have received fierce criticism over claims of wide spread exploitation including accusations of forced and child labour. Given that recent reports suggest that enslavement is rife across modern supply chains, the true extent of the issue is yet to fully emerge.
Modern slavery in today’s supply chain
With an estimated 21 million people forced in to some type of labour, the scale of this issue is difficult to imagine. While the thought of slavery seems archaic in our world of automated processes, intelligent machines and advanced production processes, new research suggests that around 11% of businesses believe that some form of modern slavery exists within their supply chain. Furthermore, given that the supply chains of everyday items including sugar, coffee and chocolate were all listed as having the highest levels of human exploitation, slavery is something that should matter to all of us.
Steps towards a more ethical supply chain
In response to such injustice, organizations across the world have started to take steps to tackle the issue of exploitation in supply chain. For example, the NSPCC and the British Home office have recently joined forces to deliver a hard hitting campaign against slavery. Focusing on all types of enslavement, their collective aim is to educate the British public about the reality of slavery on British shores while directly supporting those affected. In addition, the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply has teamed up with the anti-slavery charity, Walk Free, with a specific objective of eliminating slavery from supply chains.
Although there is no questioning the importance of such organizations in eradicating slavery, some are questioning on whether governments should also be doing more to tackle the issue at hand. For instance, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, recently came under fire after failing to pass through a draft anti-slavery bill which would have legally required all big businesses to declare their suppliers. By making this a legal requirement, big businesses would be more accountable for any exploitation taking place within their supply chain.
Improving supply chain transparency
While some argued this may be seen as a burden on businesses, several organizations have proved the benefit of making their supplier information public. For example, in 2013 H&M became the first retailer to publish a comprehensive list of the factories which produce the products sold in their high street stores. While only a limited number of retailers have followed suit, by taking this bold move H&M have taken a big step forward in preventing exploitation across the supply chain.
Given the extent of the issue, it is impossible to ignore the role slavery plays in modern supply chains. While a number of organizations are helping to resolve the issue by either making the public more aware of the issue at or taking steps to make businesses more accountable, the sad reality is that slavery is all too common. With this in mind, what do you think should be done to help reduce slavery from supply chains?