The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre has launched a registry of slavery and human trafficking statements under the UK Modern Slavery Act.
The database provides free and dynamic access to documents published by companies that must comply with the Act’s Transparency in Supply Chain provision.
The UK Modern Slavery Act (MSA) was passed into law on 26 March 2015. The legislation represents a landmark step forward to address the growing civil society and general public concern regarding the use of slave labour by businesses.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), almost 21 million women, men and children are victims of forced labour around the world. According to the same source, exploitation is mostly caused by private agents (individuals or private enterprises are at fault for 19 million of these cases).
Only in the UK, around 13,000 people were subject to slavery in 2013 alone, the first year the UK Government made an official estimation of the scale of the problem, prior to the launch of its MSA Strategy.
Following an intense campaign by civil society organisations and growing public pressure, the MSA included a Transparency in Supply Chain provision (Section 54 of the Act). The clause requires every organisation carrying out a business (or part of a business) in the UK, with a total global annual turnover of £36m and over, to produce a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year. The document must contain details of measures taken by the company to identify and eradicate slavery or human trafficking from both its own business and its supply chain. If no steps have been taken, the company must explicitly indicate so.
Although the MSA is represents concrete progress in the right direction, UK Civil society organisations have expressed their belief that the provision has not incorporated some of their key demands. One was the establishment of adequate monitoring mechanisms such as an official repository whereby civil society, consumers and interested parties could easily access the statements provided by companies in compliance with the law.
To bridge this gap, the Business and Human Resources Centre has created a database where companies’ statements will be collected. The website so far includes dozens of statements which have been released ahead of the first mandatory reporting deadline (applying to financial years starting on or after 1 April 2016).
Shortly after the legislation’s adoption, the UK Government released guidelines on reporting. The UK-based civil society coalition on corporate accountability and ECCJ member, CORE has been actively campaigning for the adoption of the MSA supply chain clause. CORE has also recently published its own Guidance on effective reporting. The document encourages companies to fulfill their reporting obligations by engaging in due diligence in order to prevent and eradicate slavery and human trafficking from supply chains.
Access to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre database and more information on the topic can be found here.