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Human Rights

Useful free briefing on modern slavery and what companies can do about it

The Institute of Business Ethics, the excellent UK charity that focuses on pragmatic solutions, amongst other things, has put out a decent new briefing on modern slavery and what business should be aware of, and can do about it.

Here’s the link, it’s worth a read.

I know from tracking the stats that more of you read text put in from of you than click on links (natural really) so here’s a few key nuggets from the briefing.

Apologies to IBE for over-quoting, but I thought this would be a good way to get some key facts out.

There’s a lot more in their briefing than these quotes below:

“The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates forced labour leads to $150 billion in profits every year – more than the annual profits of the entire US banking industry”.

That’s a compelling stat to put in front of senior management. No company wants to be associated with forced labour, but I know many people think it just takes place in isolated North Korean prison camps. Not true at all.

“Risk affect most industries, electronics and high- tech, steel and automobiles, agriculture and seafood, mining and minerals, garments and textiles, and shipping and transportation are all especially at risk.”

Shipping and transportation are an interesting inclusion here. More on those below. So of course is construction, as the Government of Qatar is belatedly discovering.

“Despite The Global Slavery Index 2013 awarding the UK and Ireland the best ratings of 162 countries surveyed, “this does not mean these countries are slavery free”, and further research suggests there is no room for complacency in UK businesses with “between 4,200 – 4,600 people in modern slavery in the United Kingdom alone”.”

OK that’s not many, but it’s still shocking. Us Brits (including Scotland, today at least!) pride ourselves on fair play and being a liberal democracy. So hard numbers are shocking. One slave is too many. No company wants to be the one that was involved in domestic market slavery, even inadvertently.

Here’s a few cases from the UK which I think are really interesting, and how how easily brands working hard on the issues can end up in the headlines:

“Case 1: In 2013 a group of Lithuanian men agreed to pay for passage to Britain and the prospect of employment: they were to repay the sum through their earnings. On arrival they found themselves shuttled from farm to farm at all hours of the day and night controlled by unlicensed labour providers or gang-masters and unable to escape. The farms they worked on supplied eggs to McDonald’s, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Marks and Spencer.

“Case 2: In May 2014 two Hungarian men who forced migrants to work in conditions of slavery were jailed in the UK. The victims, all Hungarian, had been lured to Britain with promises of well-paid jobs but on arrival were forced to work very long days for little money. They were working in a factory in West Yorkshire, run by the bed manufacturer Kozeesleep that supplies mattresses to John Lewis.”

More on all this, the Government agenda and some solutions can be found here:


Three focused, detailed and practical sustainable business events for your diary:

Business and human rights      (Lots of coverage of difficult rights issues such as slavery and trafficking)

How to get beyond policy, manage risk and build relationships
10 November, 2014, London. More details here. (In Association with the Institute of Human Rights and Business)

With: John Lewis, Nestle, First State Investments, Aviva, RBS, ABB, Ericsson, Novartis, PUMA, the Economist, Oxfam and many others. 

Collaborate effectively with suppliers and NGOs, understand policy and enforcement trends

28th-29th October, 2014, London. More details here.

With: Unilever, Lord Mandelson, Greenpeace, Nestle, Wilmar, TFT, ADM, Mondelez, M&S, Waitrose, and many others 

An exclusive two-day executive training workshop, certified by the CSR Training Institute
30-31 October, 2014, London. More details here.

With direct experience from: Arcelor Mittal, BP, Anglo American, Rexam, Golden Star, BHP Billiton, Shell, and many others