Charity and advocacy organisation Freedom For Humanity is hosting its Modern Slavery Online Summit on 15-16 June. MHD talked to one of the Summit’s featured expert speakers, Leanne Melnyk, Head of Global Supply Chains at Diginex, about the event and the pressing need to address modern slavery in supply chain.
On June 15-16 non-profit organisation Freedom For Humanity is hosting its Modern Slavery Online Summit.
An online, fee-based Summit with international sponsors, speakers, and panel sessions with experts in the fields of intervention, rescue, rehabilitation, and prevention of modern slavery – the event is of crucial importance as a forum for the dissemination of ideas in this most vital of areas.
Among the expert speakers taking part in the Summit is Leanne Melnyk, Head of Global Supply Chains at Diginex.
Leanne’s background is replete with wide-ranging experience in issues concerning labour and human rights.
“I started my career at the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, in the Special Action Programne to Combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL),” Leanne says. “That was really my entry point into this issue, and I worked on a lot of global projects to combat both forced labour and child labour.”
This experience, she says, sparked her interest in the role the private sector must play in concert with government in tackling these issues.
“Combining the power of governments around the world with the significant commercial leverage the private sector can exert – that’s how we can make a really big difference, particularly on the prevention front, which is the aspect of modern slavery that I’ve always been most interested in: prevention of labour exploitation.”
Leanne says that one of her primary focuses – and an issue that will be discussed at the Freedom For Humanity Modern Slavery Online Summit – is to get industry to conceptualise supply chains as “ecosystems”.
“Supply chains are really ecosystems without one centre,” she says. “For decades we’ve been taking an approach that is very top down, and not giving accessible and affordable tools to supply chain actors to help them manage risks around labour exploitation. I think that has hindered a lot of change that we could otherwise be seeing in supply chain.
“One of the things we’ve been focusing on most at Diginex is the development and deployment of a new tool we’ve recently come out with, and that we’ve built together with some major industry players – including Coca Cola. We’ve been working to capitalise on using the latest in cutting edge technology to identify modern slavery risks in supply chain at a much more granular level than ever before.”
Leanne is taking part in the Modern Slavery Online Summit – and encouraging as many as possible to attend too – because she believes such events are crucial in pitching to the highest levels of the private sector.
“It is really about driving that senior level and CEO engagement with the issue,” she says. “I think that’s really important for things like modern slavery statements and policies, because to be effective you really do need to have that CEO-level support.
“I think it’s a big investment – both in terms of money and reputational risk – for business leaders to have the courage to dig deeper into their supply chains and operations, and to really say, ‘Actually, there could be a risk here and we’re going to really try and find it and make available those resources necessary in case there does need to be a specialist investigation or remediation.’
“In the same way that NGOs like Freedom For Humanity need funding to do their work on the ground, private business needs to put in the resources to get to the root of this problem.
“Why I’m delighted to be speaking and taking part in the Modern Slavery Online Summit is that it’s an opportunity to leverage private business and get buy-in from senior level executives who really have the power to work with governments and NGOs in driving positive change. And I hope that as many people as possible sign up and join us in this dialogue – because it’s an issue that urgently needs to be addressed.”
To learn more about Freedom For Humanity, click here.
To purchase tickets for the Modern Slavery Online Summit, click here.