Why UK Businesses Should Care About Human Trafficking

  • Written by Laura Wheatley
  • Published on 1 August 2017
  • Our Voice

The 30th July marks the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, created in 2013 to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is a form of “modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act”. 

The UN notes that whether they are a country of origin, transit or destination for victims, all countries worldwide are affected by human trafficking and modern slavery. Despite being criminalised in 136 countries, the UN found that 16% of countries did not have a single human trafficking conviction between 2007 and 2010.

The Palermo Protocols, adopted by the UN in 2000 to “prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons”, identifies three critical components to human trafficking:

ACT

The “act” refers to how a trafficking person is moved to the desired location – this can be local, national or international. Examples of how a person could be moved include via recruiting, harbouring, moving and obtaining by the trafficker.

MEANS

The “means” refers to the methods used by the traffickers, such as force, fraud and coercion. Deceit can also be used to convince people to travel under false pretences.

PURPOSE

The “purpose” of human trafficking refers to the way that the trafficker is seeking to exploit the victim. The most common purposes of human trafficking are involuntary servitude, debt bondage and sexual slavery.

So how does human trafficking affect the supply chains of UK businesses?

Examples of human trafficking in the supply chains of UK businesses are increasingly prevalent in the media. Earlier this month, a couple in Nottinghamshire were found guilty on accounts of forced labour and fraud, after trafficking men from Poland to work in the UK. One man was forced to work for a high street sports retailer before having his money stolen by his traffickers. Although the sports retailer was not accused of any crime, this is not the first time that trafficked employees have been found to be working for them.

The implementation of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015 marked the first time that UK businesses would be held to account for exploitation occurring throughout their (often global) supply chains. The legislation outlines that businesses with a turnover higher than £36 million must express their intended actions to tackle modern slavery – which includes child labour, forced labour, sexual exploitation and human trafficking – within their supply chain. This must be articulated through a statement placed on the business’s customer facing website.

The aim of the modern slavery legislation is to deliver supplier and supply chain transparency, along with fair wages and equality. Although the act does not compel businesses to change their working practices or supplier policies, it does force them to declare their intention and actions, or their lack of. Therefore, any company who fails to produce a statement or demonstrate their intent to remit any modern slavery or human trafficking, could face public scrutiny. Failure to produce a statement could result in a hefty fine.

How can supplier compliance help?

So, regulation is forcing companies to act against slavery and human trafficking in their supply chain, but is this enough? Not only is the government and legislation becoming more enforceable about expelling exploitative working conditions lower down the manufacturing process, so are consumers.

Over recent years, consumers have become increasingly conscious about where their items have come from, and the conditions potentially suffered by those manufacturing them. This is further highlighted with the creation of the Fashion Revolution who encourage consumers to ask “who made my clothes?”. In 2014, KPMG found that 40% of consumers would switch brands if they found that their preferred brand did not pay minimum wage.

Without transparency and guaranteed nominated supplier policies, businesses are unable to track suppliers to ensure that exploitative practices – such as human trafficking and modern slavery – are not contributing to the creation of their products. With full supply chain transparency, human trafficking could pose a threat to UK industries.

It’s time to get clear on what’s going on in your supply chain. Segura can offer brands and retailers end-to-end supply chain visibility through a declared ordering process, meaning the provenance of each component can be tracked. The ability to view factory information, including audit data, as well as the system’s capability of alerting the retailer to unauthorised subcontracting means that potential cases of modern slavery can be identified and tackled in real time.

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