The New Transparency: Using Collaboration And Technology To Help Address Modern Slavery

Author:Ms Ameena Majid and Rachel Bernasconi
Profession:Seyfarth Shaw LLP

Seyfarth Synopsis: Over 40 million people around the world are trapped in conditions of modern slavery, according to research from the Walk Free Foundation and the International Labour Organization. Modern slavery—a term that encompasses various forms of servitude, forced labor, trafficking in persons, forced marriage, child trafficking, debt bondage, child labor and exploitation, and other slavery-like practices—exists both at home and abroad, across a range of local industries and in global supply chains.

The fight against modern slavery is fragmented. Governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and law enforcement agencies are engaged in their own fights at various levels (local, regional, national) with little collaboration.

Now, in our increasingly globalized markets, there is growing regulatory and consumer pressure on businesses—domestically and internationally—to eliminate the exploitative practices of modern slavery that occur in their operations and/or their global supply chains.

Businesses have the chance to lead the way in the growing global effort to eliminate the exploitative practices of modern slavery; they are uniquely positioned to educate the largest constituency—their employees and business partners. By taking action, businesses can meet increasing investor, shareholder and social expectations; manage legal, reputational, financial and operational risks; and demonstrate corporate leadership on an urgent moral issue.

However, they cannot do it alone and, to be effective, businesses will need to go beyond mere compliance efforts centered on due diligence/disclosure and focus on transparency and collaboration with government and NGOs. Technological advancements are now also providing real and substantial opportunities for improvement.

The Compliance Framework

There is a growing body of international laws and norms requiring corporate reporting and due diligence on modern slavery and human rights issues. These include the UK Modern Slavery Act, the French Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law, the Swiss Responsible Business Initiative, the U.S. Federal Acquisition Regulations, and the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act.

Legislatures in Canada and Hong Kong are also currently considering modern slavery laws. In addition, the Australian State of New South Wales has recently passed its own modern slavery legislation. For any multi-national businesses who have operations in Australia, the Australian Government this...

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