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Corporate Approaches to Addressing Modern Slavery in Supply Chains: A Snapshot of Current Practice

In October 2015, complying with the UK Modern Slavery Act became a legal requirement for at least 12,000 companies in the UK and around the world. The Ashridge Centre for Business and Sustainability at Hult International Business School and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) partnered to lead this research into company perspectives and responses to the risks of modern slavery in their global supply chains — against a backdrop of increasing global human rights legislation and reporting requirements.

The researchers surveyed 30 ETI members and interviewed a mix of ETI members and non-members: 21 retailers and tier 1 suppliers from across the apparel, grocery, department store, home and garden retail, beverage, fresh produce and health and personal care sectors.

Overall, 10 key messages emerged:

  1. 71% of companies believe there is a likelihood of modern slavery occurring at some stage in their supply chains: it is complex, hidden and challenging to address;
  2. Leadership makes all the difference in an effective response;
  3. Companies that are aligned in their response are able to make more progress;
  4. Collaboration is essential, but competitive tensions can be a barrier;
  5. End-to-end supply chain visibility and engagement are critical but this is only happening in narrow pockets;
  6. Relationships and trust with suppliers is important, but most responses are still audit-led;
  7. Reputational risk is the biggest driver for change, but other factors are significant too;
  8. Bad news can catalyse change, but it needs to be the right kind of change;
  9. There is a real spectrum of experience and practice in companies seeking to address modern slavery; and
  10. Developing sustainable solutions to modern slavery takes time, but requires urgent action.

Each section of this report illustrates these findings with quotes from those interviewed.

You can download the report here.

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