31 August 2016, London – Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has today released its enhanced registry of statements made by companies under the UK Modern Slavery Act. The Registry now contains over 540 statements found as the first deadline approaches for companies to report under the Act. The Registry is supported and guided by Freedom Fund, Humanity United, Anti-Slavery International, CORE Coalition, and FLEX (Focus on Labour Exploitation).
UK Prime Minister Theresa May recently described modern slavery as “the great human rights issue of our time”. First analysis of the 540 statements shows that many statements do not meet even the minimum requirements of the Act. The vast majority of statements are not signed by a company director (or equivalent) and available from the company’s website homepage, two basic requirements of the Act. These concerns were initially raised by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and CORE Coalition in February 2016.
The Modern Slavery Act requires all companies operating in the UK with a global turnover of more than £36m to report annually on what they are doing to address slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains. Companies must report within 6 months of their financial year end.
The free and open registry allows comparison and benchmarking of companies’ policy and practice to generate a ‘race to the top’ among companies; allows investors to assess company risks; and helps consumers and activists to reward leading companies and press laggards to take action. Companies will also use it to learn from their peers. A live dashboard enables users to explore statements by sector and country of company headquarters, as they are added to the registry.
Many companies appear not to have grasped the spirit of the Act which pushes them to conduct meaningful due diligence to identify and mitigate risks of modern slavery in their supply chains and operations. Some statements appear to be based on a common template and use identical language. This persists despite guidance for companies on how they can report effectively under the Act.
However, there is also better practice: A handful of statements provide some detailed information on companies’ supply chain structure and modern slavery risks. Marshalls, for example, provides examples of areas of its business as well as geographic areas that are high risk; Intel described how it engages with major suppliers to create a risk profile which includes slavery and human trafficking, it said it then works with suppliers to build their capacity to identify and prevent these risks; and Ford detailed how it assesses risk looking at geography, commodity type and quality of supplier performance.
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has been collecting statements made under the UK Modern Slavery Act since February 2016. Until then, the only way to find statements made under the Act was to trawl internet search pages. Recent enhancements to the Registry represent a significant step forward in providing a comprehensive list of statements in an accessible format. The Resource Centre is actively involved with a wider group of companies and civil society on the further development of transparency and accountability for the Modern Slavery Act.
Phil Bloomer, director of Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, said:
“No company wants slavery in its supply chain. This interactive registry will allow investors, companies and consumers to see quickly which companies are seeking to eradicate it and which are turning a blind eye.”
Marilyn Croser, director of the CORE Coalition, said:
“The message to companies now is that they must go beyond compliance, do their due diligence and take meaningful action to combat slavery in their supply chains. The apparent lack of senior level involvement and statements not being easily accessible from companies’ homepages is a worrying indicator that this isn’t being taken seriously enough within businesses”
Nick Grono, CEO of Freedom Fund, said:
“This registry is a key tool to help the fight to eliminate modern slavery. All companies and investors should regularly review these statements to ensure they and their peers are doing all they can to end this scourge.”
If you are a company and want to submit a statement to Business & Human Rights Resource Centre’s registry please contact: