Around the world, millions of people are trapped in their jobs, unable to leave because they are threatened with violence or controlled in other ways. Many of these people – and the materials they produce with their labour – are part of the vast and complex global supply chains that feed consumers in both developed and developing countries. While globalisation has brought benefits for companies and consumers through higher profits, lower prices and more choice, it has also created the conditions for abuses to flourish far from the eyes of those enjoying these benefits.
Eradicating modern slavery requires greater transparency and accountability in supply chains. Stronger legal and regulatory frameworks are needed to help both governments and the private sector to understand their responsibilities. Recent positive developments include the 2010 Californian Transparency in Supply Chains (TISC) Act, the proposed U.S. federal Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act 2014, and the 2015 Modern Slavery Bill in the UK.
Improving the availability of information about how these responsibilities are being met can allow for good practice to be celebrated and failures to be identified and addressed. Civil society has an important role to play here. Recent civil society-led initiatives promoting corporate accountability include Know the Chain, which monitors companies’ compliance with California’s transparency legislation, and Verite’s Labor Rights Portal, which gathers data on labour rights standards, legal requirements and practices and abuses in China and Malaysia.
With this sector initiative, the Freedom Fund aims to support new tools for business, government and civil society to improve transparency and accountability in global supply chains.
The Hub not only complements and enhances existing initiatives but provides tools for advocacy by delivering easily accessible information on national frameworks for individual and corporate accountability. The Hub is unique in its particular focus on corporate accountability mechanisms, including regulatory requirements for preventing, detecting and reporting on modern slavery in supply chains, as well as provisions for civil and criminal corporate liability. It aims to provide a basis for accountability actions, by identifying the obligations of governments and corporations, while also providing models for good practice in legislative development.
The aim of the project is to produce a comprehensive online database of national laws and regulations on individual and corporate accountability for modern slavery. The hub provides a unique source of data on modern slavery accountability mechanisms, that:
1. Enables law and policy makers to identify and adopt good practice in modern slavery accountability;
2. Provides advocates with a rich source of information upon which to base campaigns for improved accountability;
3. Provides consumers with information about the laws and regulations on corporate accountability in countries in which companies operate
4. Increases victim service providers’ awareness of and access to legal remedies; and
5. Informs business about their accountability requirements in relation to modern slavery.
The research and development of the hub is coordinated by FLEX. The project engages pro-bono legal research services from lawyers in target countries.
The project incorporates the input of experts and relevant bodies through focus group sessions, surveys and interviews.
The Freedom Fund has provided a grant to Transparentem to support its launch. Transparentem is a non-profit initiative which will adopt frontline reporting ethics to investigate global supply chains in order to spur the eradication of human and environmental abuses.