Supply chain professionals need more support on modern slavery

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The issue of modern slavery in the supply chain will not go away. Yesterday the Home Office set out plans to review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 after research found that the economic and social costs of modern slavery to the UK are some £4.3 billion.

Coincidentally, the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, published its own study which found that about a third of supply chain managers do not think their businesses are doing enough to identify modern slavery in their supply chains.

Cath Hill, CIPS group director said: “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.”

Malory Davies, FCILT, Editor.

Malory Davies, FCILT, Editor.

According to the Home Office: “Each instance of the crime is estimated to cost around £330,000, including the cost of support, lost earnings and law enforcement but most significantly the physical and emotional harms suffered by individuals, who are often exploited over months and sometimes years. This places each modern slavery crime as second only to homicide in terms of harm to its victims and society.”

And it highlighted the fact that the criminal networks that recruit and control victims are constantly adapting and finding new ways to exploit victims. The aim of the review will be to enhance the currently legislation. Key areas of focus for the review will be developing an understanding on the nature of modern slavery offences, the provisions around legal access and compensation to victims and improving the support given to child victims.

Victoria Atkins, minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, said: “Chairing the Business Against Slavery Forum last week, it is clear some companies are leading the way but others are falling behind. I’ve asked for this review to look at if we should strengthen our legislation to ensure businesses are taking robust action to eradicate forced labour in their supply chains.”

The CIPS study identified a desire to do more among supply chain professionals but it is clear that companies need to provide more support. For example, 70 per cent of supply chain managers said they wanted more access to guidance and training on how to tackle the problem.

When Peter Drucker wrote: “What gets measured gets managed”, he probably wasn’t thinking of modern slavery. But the 2015 legislation started the process of measuring the problem, and it’s a fair bet that the Home Office review will lead to a toughening up of the legislation.

Legislation is all well and good, but what is very clear is that supply chain professionals need more support from their organisations to deal with the problem.

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