Modern Slavery in the supply chain

modern slavery

MHD asks Nicholas Bernhardt, Informed 365 CEO about modern slavery – and learns why awareness is key to halting its influence over global supply chains. 

What is modern slavery?

It’s something that a lot of people think only happened hundreds of years ago. But it’s more prevalent today than it was yesterday and it will be more prevalent tomorrow than today. By my explanation, modern slavery is forcing someone to do something they do not want to do. The technical definition involves slavery, servitude, human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, child labour and the sale or exploitation of children.

Why is the problem getting worse?

There’s a lot of money to be had in it, which is the biggest problem. Slave labour is the second highest grossing criminal activity behind the drug trade. The COVID-19 pandemic has also pushed vulnerable people into more desperate situations – when people are desperate, they’ll take on labour they typically wouldn’t. 

How is Informed365 helping curb the problem?

Informed 365 is an Australian based ESG (Environment Social Governance) tech solution that helps companies visualise, monitor, track and engage with their supply chain. Larger companies often have thousands of suppliers so we help engage with the suppliers efficiently without materially adding to the workload. The collected data then underpins a modern slavery statement.

What is the Modern Slavery Act?

The Modern Slavery Act requires entities based, or operating, in Australia, which have an annual consolidated revenue of more than $100 million, to report annually on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, and actions to address those risks.

These organisations are required to submit modern slavery statements, describing the risks of modern slavery in the operations and supply chains. The statements must also include information about actions taken to address those risks.

What are the penalties for modern slavery being a part of a company’s supply chain?

With the current legislation, there are no penalties for anyone that a doesn’t submit, puts false data into or makes up a statement. As there are no penalties some statements can look like fancy marketing brochures. I believe that penalties for non-conformance would help drive positive change.

How does Australia compare to the rest of the world?

According to the Global Slavery Index, there were approximately 15,000 people living in “conditions of modern slavery” in Australia five years ago. 

Globally there is an estimated 40 million people engaged in modern slavery. About two thirds of the global slave trade occurs in the Asia-Pacific. Some of Australia’s biggest trading partners, including China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, and are host to some of the most egregious crimes. Modern slavery is usually found in deeper tiers of suppliers.

How can businesses be better?

Half of the battle is awareness and allowing people to know there is a problem. No one’s perfect – even the laptop I’m talking on has probably got components that are based on slavery. Businesses will go a long way by simply addressing it. Internal training is important to pair with talking to suppliers to improve the visibility of a supply chain. 

Goals for Informed 365 going forward

If I’m glass half full, I would say the analogy is health and safety. For example 30 or 40 years ago, health and safety equipment like high-vis vests and boots were almost optional in certain industries and now they have become the norm. 

I’m hoping that by building more awareness and providing better data to companies we turn ethical sourcing into the ethos of businesses so they look into the environmental and social aspects of their procurement process as well as the price and location. 

If it becomes the standard way of doing business, people will spend money with other ethical businesses, and that in turn will start pushing the bad operators out of the market. 

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