Last week Erwin and Krystian Markowski were each sentenced to six years in jail at Nottingham Crown Court after being convicted on charges related to trafficking people for labour exploitation.
The court heard that the two of them recruited eighteen vulnerable men in Poland who were made to do agency work at the Sport Direct’s warehouse in Derbyshire while the men controlled their victims’ bank accounts and kept most of their wages.
When the UK passed the Modern Slavery Act in 2015, most people expected it to relate to abuses taking place in the furthest reaches of the supply chain – not in the British Midlands.
It should be made clear that there is no suggestion that Sports Direct, or agency Transline, had any knowledge of what was going on – in fact Transline reportedly called in the police when evidence of this situation came to light.
But the case highlights the fact that it is worryingly easy for these things to take place in a society that believes such practices were stamped out in Victorian times.
So it can only be a good thing that the British Standards Institution has created the “Trafficking & Supply Chain Slavery Patterns Index” to provide the data organisations need to understand and manage the risks.
Index developer Michiko Shima says: “It looks at the intersection and relationship between source countries of displaced people, and the likelihood of being exploited upon arrival in destination countries. Other methods are one dimensional – looking only at source or destination countries.”
The index works by pairing source/destination countries and their relative risk – it can provide a broad understanding of the breadth of threats to global supply chains. These include human rights abuses, security threats and business continuity risks.
It highlights the fact that the UK is exposed to an increased risk of modern day slaves entering the country from two thirds of the countries of the world, and it identifies a number of countries as ‘severe risk’ sources.
The issue of modern slavery is not going to go away. It is estimated that in total, there are 13,000 people enduring modern slavery in the UK today. Logistics and supply chain professionals have to be aware of the risks that exist at every stage of the supply chain – any tool that can help with that must be welcome.