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Slavery in Global Supply Chains: The Role of BAM in Finding Solutions

by James McHaffie

Modern slavery has been a major and growing issue for some time. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that 21m people globally are victims of forced labour, generating $150 billion in illegal profits annually. Of this, there are 10.7 million victims of labour exploitation in private enterprise, reaching US$43.4 billion in illegal profits per year.

Modern slavery is a broad term that encompasses slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour and human trafficking. These are all issues which need no introduction to most BAM companies – many of which are businesses employing workers who have been victims of, or who are at risk of modern slavery.

Growing public awareness of the issues and new legislation in a number of countries has pushed this on the agenda for companies. For example, in 2015 the UK Modern Slavery Act became a legal requirement for at least 17,000 companies in the UK and, consequently, around the world. Companies with an annual turnover of £36m or more, with operations in the UK, have to produce an annual statement outlining steps they have taken to address the risk of modern slavery in their supply chains and within their own business. 

Recent research from Hult International Business School and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) exploring emerging corporate approaches to addressing modern slavery in supply chains, found that 71 percent of companies believe there is a likelihood of modern slavery occurring at some point within their supply chains – particularly in high-risk countries or sectors and at the lower stages of the chain.

The complexity and demands of supply chains, together with the often hidden nature of modern slavery, makes it difficult to identify and address. Understanding how to respond to modern slavery has become a pressing issue for senior business leaders and supply chain managers across the globe. So what is the role of BAM companies in supporting a response? Read more