Somehow or the other, all of us are supporting slave trading

Somehow or the other, all of us are supporting slave trading

Tod Cooper
Wellington, November 6, 2019

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in partnership with the Walk Free Foundation and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), there are over 40-million people around the world who remain victims of modern slavery.  Many of them work for you!

Some stats from Global Estimate of Modern Slavery; there are over 25-million people in forced labour, 75% of them are women or girls, and sadly 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are children… CHILDREN!

Choice to consider

As consumers, we have a choice to consider from where our products and services come.

While individually we may not be able to influence change, collectively we most certainly can! If for example we all opted out of grocery and liquor products that we buy without a clear ethical or Fairtrade certification, collectively we will influence some of the $5.5 billion retail spending.  See Statistics NZ.

Still not convinced this will work?  Not so long ago, we took a stance on the ethical and Fairtrade production of coffee. Now you have to search far and wide for coffee in New Zealand not sourced from either an ethical or Fairtrade certified producer.

“Modern slavery is not something that happens ‘over there’ that we don’t have to think about.  If you care about the people who make our products we can make a difference.”

Walk Free co-founder Grace Forrest

The Supply Chain

From a business perspective, and as a procurement practitioner, I live and breathe supply chain. 

Disappointingly, outside of a simple box ticking exercise, the New Zealand Government is still not doing enough collectively to address where they source the $41 billion of products and services they consume each year. 

Why would they?

Regrettably, they are not held to account for this, or resourced to make it work. 

However, some positive exceptions occur.

For example, the Department of Corrections does great work around building visibility and accountability in a critical supply chain that reached into regions that were a high risk for modern slavery. 

These positive examples should be the norm, not the exception.

In fact, New Zealand doesn’t even feature in a list of 40 countries actively taking action to cut supply chain slavery (shown in red below). 

Legislation elsewhere

The United States has various State legislation and US Executive Orders are combating modern slavery. The UK has a well embedded Modern Slavery Act, and Australia has followed suit by enacting a Modern Slavery Act in December 2018.

A positive move this year is the New Zealand government’s Supplier Code of Conduct which outlines the expectations government have of their suppliers.  The issue is that government leaders are not yet held to account.

While this Supplier Code of Conduct is specifically referenced in the 4th edition of the Government Procurement Rules, there are no consequences of breaching these rules.

Collectively, we need to get much better at assessing our suppliers attitudes towards modern slavery, we need to investigate their social systems.

Due diligence needed

We need to ensure we are undertaking necessary due diligence on our current and new suppliers as part of our procurement and supply chain management activities. 

By doing this, we will flesh out those that enable modern slavery and put real dent in this modern slavery atrocity.

Watch out for a future article about the Bali Process, what is it? why is it so important?

Tod Cooper is Director, Transparency International New Zealand. His special interest areas include Procurement, Online Training and Whistleblowing. The above article appeared in the November 2019 issue of Transparency International.

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