Tackling Modern Slavery in the Supply Chain

  • Written by Peter Needle
  • Published on 18 April 2019
  • Blogs

Today marks six months since Anti-Slavery day in the UK, a day created to provide an opportunity to raise awareness of what is still a very modern issue.

We took a look at the locality of slavery and the way that modern slavery is posing a threat to the fashion industry. Now, I wanted to look at the actions that corporations can take to reduce modern slavery.

Understanding the Risk

As with anything new, you can’t tackle it until you understand it. The term “slavery” covers domestic servitude, sex trafficking, forced labour, bonded labour, child labour and forced marriage. In particular, supply chains are at risk of forced, bonded and child labour. The government offers guidance on meeting the terms of the Modern Slavery Act where you can see more information. 


Auditing is the one of the most basic of ways to check that things are working the way they should, at the time of the audit. Unfortunately, an audit has its limits and can only provide a snapshot of an environment, it won’t always highlight the hidden issues. An audit will ensure that you comply with regulation and legislation for that day, and may look at historic practices whereby improvement was required, but it can’t capture real time activity or shared information with other parties who may be able to share experiences they’ve had. Still they are accepted as a standard and do directly contribute to improvements. Asia Inspection and ETI, to name but a few, do great work and long may it continue.

However, in order to fulfil the pledge we’ve made in the UK; to eradicate modern slavery, I do feel that we need to better share information across the globe and go beyond the audit to ensure we shine a light on the issues that are currently eluding us.

Supply Chain Tracking

Matthew Taylor, author of a government review on modern working practices and the gig economy published in July 2017, told MPs that brands should be made responsible for abuses occurring down their supply chain. Mr Taylor, who was formerly Tony Blair’s head of policy, announced his beliefs that companies should be jointly liable for illegal practices taking place in their supply chain, whether or not they directly employ the workers involved. 

Arguably the idea of joint liability would have meant that companies at the top of that tree, which may be major brands, would have wanted to make sure that kind of practice wasn’t taking place at the bottom of the supply chain.

Matthew Taylor
Head of the Royal Society of Arts

The world is changing and technological advances offer us far more than ever before, it’s time to change and set the acceptable standards much higher, simply because we can is excuse enough, a world without slavery is a great goal to have…


Originally Published 18/10/2017



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