Companies must do more on modern slavery

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UK businesses are not doing enough to identify modern slavery in their supply chains, according to the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply.

It surveyed 897 supply chain managers and found that 31 per cent did not think their business was taking the necessary steps to tackle the issue.

The survey also found inertia among businesses when it comes to introducing anti-slavery policies. Since the introduction of the UK Modern Slavery Act three years ago, only 23 per cent of companies that the Act applies to have undertaken site inspections to check for evidence of any slavery or human trafficking.

CIPS said this demonstrates a lack of progress from last year, when only 22 per cent had undertaken inspections.

This year, half of supply chain managers reported that they have provided modern slavery training to their staff –a slight rise from the 45 per cent that provided training in 2017.

Greater awareness of modern slavery has not transferred into greater support within businesses, with 31 per cent of supply chain managers who the Act applies to saying there is greater pressure to find modern slavery but no extra resources to help them do so.

Some 70 per cent also said they wanted more access to guidance and training on how to tackle the problem.

“Awareness of modern slavery alone will do little to help exploited people. These figures suggest that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak when it comes to rooting out slavery,” said CIPS group director Cath Hill.

“Eliminating human suffering is not something that can be done on a piece of paper. Modern slavery is an issue that requires constant, proactive attention from the whole business community, sharing knowledge, best practice and intelligence. There needs to be a change in mind-set.

“Instead of seeing modern slavery prevention as an annual compliance exercise, business and government must integrate it into the way they conduct due diligence every day.”

The survey found that only four per cent of UK businesses had found instances of slavery in their supply chains since the Modern Slavery Act was introduced three years ago, despite National Crime Agency figures suggesting the problem is on the rise.

“Supply chain professionals cannot win the fight against modern slavery on their own,” said Hill. “Both the Government and the wider business community need to provide substantially more guidance and resources to equip procurement professionals with the tools they need to rid UK supply chains of this terrible crime.”

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