Is your organisation or supply chain contributing to Modern Slavery?

The UK marked 18 October 2020 as the first Anti-Slavery Day. This important day provides an opportunity to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery, and encourage governments, local authorities, companies, charities, and individuals to do what they can to address the problem.

Each year, more and more charities, individuals, local authorities, and police will take action to mark Anti-Slavery Day.

It is our responsibility to respect human rights in all operations and supply chains, including taking steps to assess and address modern slavery risks in Australia and the world. 

Australia’s national Modern Slavery Reporting Requirement

In Australia, the Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act 2018 came into force on 1 January 2019 establishing Australia’s national Modern Slavery Reporting Requirement. Now, certain large entities must publish annual Modern Slavery Statements describing their actions to assess and address modern slavery risks. The reporting requirement applies to commercial and not-for-profit entities with annual revenue of at least AU$100 million. The Australian Modern Slavery Act is the first national legislation in the world to define modern slavery.

What is modern slavery?

The term modern slavery describes situations where coercion, threats or deception are used to exploit people and undermine or deprive them of their freedom. It is used to describe serious exploitation and does not include practices such as substandard working conditions or underpayment of workers. These practices are also illegal and harmful and may also be present in some situations of modern slavery and may escalate into modern slavery if not addressed.

There are severe consequences for victims of modern slavery, and it can occur in every industry. Modern slavery distorts global markets, undercuts responsible business, and can pose significant legal and reputational risks to entities.

How does modern slavery impact your entity?

It is our responsibility to respect human rights in all operations and supply chains, including taking steps to assess and address modern slavery risks in Australia and the world.

As well as being ethically responsible, combatting modern slavery makes good business sense; it protects the business by improving the integrity and quality of supply chains. Ethical business practices can also increase profitability, confidence, and access to financing opportunities.

The nature and extent of modern slavery means there is a real risk that it may be present in your entity’s operations and supply chains.

The impact of COVID-19 may further increase the vulnerability of workers in your global operations and supply chains. Factory disruptions, order cancellations, workforce reductions and sudden changes to supply chain structures can disproportionately affect some workers and increase their exposure to modern slavery and other forms of exploitation.

Loss of income or fear of loss of income, low awareness of workplace rights, requirements to work excessive overtime to cover capacity gaps, increased demand due to supply chain shortages or the inability to return to home countries safely can all contribute.

CMA’s Modern Slavery Working Group

CMA has taken a leadership role and established a Modern Slavery Working Group, as a subgroup to our Sustainability Committee. Its purpose is to develop an industry framework to assess risks and provide tools for mitigation and remediation. This is to ensure ethical supply chains while making it easier for suppliers to do business with Australian companies by the Competition and Consumer Act.

The Working Group was established for CMA to advocate the Modern Slavery requirements in a socially responsible way. It will take the pressure off individual supply chains so that the focus can be where it should be – on in improving products and workers’ rights.

A consistent, industry-wide supplier questionnaire is being finalised by the Working Group which will include aspects around benchmark principles, particularly around purchasing practices, responsibilities and areas that encourage stronger partnerships across the supply chain. The questionnaire will also focus on making it simple to obtain high-quality responses while removing the need to meet multiple requirement frameworks.

More information

For more support, contact the Modern Slavery Business Engagement Unit in the Australian Border Force:

CMA encourages entities impacted by COVID-19 to review the ABF online information sheet.

For more information on workplace rights and obligations in Australia, please visit the Australian Government Fair Work Ombudsman website.



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