A NEW church-led report into the risks of human trafficking within UK companies has been commended by the Archbishop of Canterbury for showing that “any business” can be exposed to modern slavery through its supply chain.
The report Forced Labour, Human Trafficking and the FTSE 100 — which was launched in partnership with the Anglican mission agency Us., and the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR), on Friday — has been three years in the making, and comes after the passing of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 by the Government, in March. The legislation states that “slavery, servitude, and forced or compulsory labour and . . . human trafficking” is to be actively prevented and the victims protected.
Archbishop Welby said that the Modern Slavery Act 2015 was an opportunity to rally a “call to action” to prevent the “scourge” of human trafficking across the world that “grossly undermines the inherent and God-given dignity of the human”.
Last month, new legislation was put forward that requires organisations to publish an “annual slavery and human-trafficking statement” for the financial year ending on or after 31 March 2016. The report, which is sponsored by the Financial Times, targets FTSE 100 companies — the top 100 companies traded on the London Stock Exchange with a combined value of £1700 billion — to set an example.
The director of Finance Against Trafficking, a branch of the global campaign group Stop the Traffik, Jason Nunn, who presented the research, said that the enforcement of the Modern Slavery Act was “timely”, as the report sets out to encourage UK businesses not only to comply with the new measures, but also to “actively investigate” any affiliation with human trafficking. Investors are also advised to “ask questions” to ensure that their money is dealt with ethically.
The chairman of ECCR and former Bishop of Swindon, the Rt Revd Michael Doe, said: “People must understand that they are all investors, be that in a pension or an ISA, and that they can affect the policies of the companies they invest in.” Human trafficking, he said, does not only affect those displaced, but also those who are “trapped” in accommodation provided by industry owners. For fear of eviction, workers have “no power” to negotiate income, or conditions.
His warning comes after the Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern, said this month that the Church of England must “end the demand” for modern slavery by using its network of communities to raise awareness (News, 13 November).
The chief executive of Stop the Traffik, Ruth Dearnley, said that the answers to the problem of human trafficking lie within communities. Modern slavery is a “more organised system than we are”, driven by the “power of business,” she warned.
The report estimates that, today, 21 million people are trapped by forced labour — which generates profits of £98.25-billion per year — 14.2-million of whom are at work within the private economy. The report recommends practical guidelines for companies with a turnover in excess of £36,000, such as appointing a human-rights expert; addressing human rights in the code of conduct; and investigating the possibility of human trafficking in the supply chain, directly or by affiliation.
The founder of Stop the Traffik, Steve Chalke, who introduced the report on Friday, announced a new partnership with the international technology company IBM, which will be sharing data software with the group, and training its members and volunteers to use the information, to “stop trafficking at the source”.
The corporate affairs manager at IBM, Mark Wakefield, said that the company’s “knowledge centre” is the same as that used by governments to prevent terrorism.