Modern slavery – why is it important? – PODCAST

Episode three of Snack-sized sustainability reveals why modern slavery is an incredibly important consideration for all businesses, how it relates to sustainability and where to get started.

Modern slavery – why is it important? – PODCAST

Episode three of Snack-sized sustainability reveals why modern slavery is an incredibly important consideration for all businesses, how it relates to sustainability and where to get started.


Meet the author

Sarah Hammond

Managing Consultant

In episode three of our Snack-sized sustainability podcast, Sarah Hammond discusses modern slavery.

Tune in to hear what it is, how it relates to sustainability, what should be included in a modern slavery statement and five key things organisations should do.

Listen here or read on for an edited transcript.

Welcome to “Snack-sized sustainability”. Part of our Simply Sustainability podcast brought to you by Clarasys. 

Each snippet will see me, Sarah Hammond, discuss a key sustainability concept in less than five minutes. So grab a snack and get comfortable. In this episode, we discuss modern slavery, what it is, why it’s important to organisations and how it relates to sustainability. 

So what is modern slavery?

The UK government defined modern slavery as “the recruitment, movement, harbouring or receiving of children, women, or men for the use of force, coercion, abusive vulnerability, deception, or other means for the purpose of exploitation” as a crime under the Modern Slavery Act 2015. 

When hearing this, it can quite often make us think of the most extreme cases and something that we are unlikely to come across or unlikely to have to consider. But this isn’t the case. Particularly when we broaden our view to consider all of our operations and our whole supply chain. 

In relation to this, the definition by Anti-Slavery organisation is very useful.

They say “modern slavery is the severe exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain. Modern slavery is all around us, but often just out of sight. People can become entrapped, making our clothes, serving our food, picking our crops, working in factories or working in houses as cooks, cleaners or nannies”. 

How does this relate to sustainability?

From a people and social sustainability perspective, a sustainable supply chain can only be called sustainable if people are not being exploited in scenarios that can be defined as modern slavery. In addition, from an environmental perspective, often the scenarios and situations surrounding modern slavery are those which are highly destructive to the environment such as mining and fast fashion.

An interesting paper highlighting the connections between modern slavery and the environment is Bales and Sovacool 2021 entitled ‘From forests to factories: How modern slavery deepens the crisis of climate change.’ They estimate 40.2 million people are currently in situations of modern slavery and they discuss the circular relationship between modern slavery, environmental destruction, and carbon emissions.

But what does this mean for organisations?

In the UK, organisations are expected to publish an annual modern slavery statement if they are a body corporate or partnership wherever incorporated or formed, if they carry out business or part of a business in the UK, if they supply goods or services and if they have an annual turnover of 36 million or more.

Previously those who had statements could be found on the NGO registry, such as WikiRate and the quality of these statements were assessed on websites, such as Walk Free. However, recently the government has launched its own registry, though it’s not mandatory to show them on this register at present.

Internationally, many countries have very similar requirements such as Australia. 

Whilst there are certain criteria to produce a modern slavery statement, many companies do it voluntarily as it’s the right thing to do. You can find Clarasys modern slavery statement here

What should be included in a modern slavery statement?

Statements should describe the actions taken every financial year to deal with modern slavery risks. They aren’t to declare your organisation is slavery-free but to show how your organisation has considered modern slavery and reduced and minimized any risks.

The government suggests including organisational structure, supply chains, policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking, due diligence processes, risk assessment and management, key performance indicators to measure effectiveness of steps being taken and training on modern slavery trafficking.

How do you get started?

There are five key things organisations should do.

1) Create your own supplier code of conduct which formally defines how you expect your suppliers to behave, including specific modern slavery clauses in your contracts. 

2) Conduct a human rights assessment, to identify any high-risk areas. You can find out more about this on our human rights episode

3) Engage senior leadership in the importance of this matter and how it has changed decision making going forwards. 

4) Train employees on their rights, and also the detail of modern slavery so that they are able to spot violations.

5) Write a modern slavery statement to show your commitment and to drive accountability in your organisation to taking the necessary steps.

Whilst this is the right thing to do. There are actually many benefits for organisations. 

Primarily this includes a more monitored, adaptable and well-understood supply chain as well as improved brand reputation, customer loyalty, and access to new customer populations as consumers seek higher ethical standards in the organisations they engage with.

If you want to discuss more about what modern slavery means for your organisation, please reach out to us today. We’d love to talk to you.

Thank you for listening to Snack-sized sustainability. We hope you enjoyed it and learned something new. Please do let us know if there are any key sustainability concepts you’d like us to cover. We look forward to welcoming you back on our next episode.

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