BY Fraser Tennant
Transparency among major companies relating to the risks of modern slavery in their global supply chains is severely lacking, according to a new report by corporate watchdog the CORE Coalition.
The report – ‘Risk Averse: Company Reporting on raw material and sector-specific risks under the Transparency in Supply Chains clause in the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015’ – examines the statements of 50 companies, as under the terms of the UK Modern Slavery Act, all firms with an annual turnover above £36m are required to publish a slavery & human trafficking statement.
Of the 50 companies under the microscope, 25 source raw materials known to be linked to labour exploitation – cocoa from West Africa, mined gold, mica from India, palm oil from Indonesia and tea from Assam. The other 25 operate in sectors known to be at-risk of modern slavery, such as clothing and footwear, hotels, construction, football and service outsourcing.
The report’s key findings include: (i) top cosmetics companies make no mention in their statements of child labour in mica supply chains, even though a quarter of the world’s mica (a mineral used to create a shimmer in make-up) comes from mines in Northeast India where around 20,000 children are estimated to work; (ii) chocolate companies do not provide information in their statements on their cocoa supply chains, despite acknowledging that they source from West Africa, where child labour and forced labour are endemic in cocoa production; and (iii) jewellery firms do not include any detail on the risks of slavery and trafficking associated with gold mining, although estimates by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) suggest that close to one million children work in gold mines worldwide.
“With an estimated 24.9 million people in slavery globally, the level of complacency from major companies, particularly those that trumpet their corporate social responsibility, is startling,” said Marilyn Croser, director of CORE. “Genuine transparency about the problems is needed, not just more public relations.”
While the report focuses in the main on companies that do not report specific risks of slavery and trafficking within their supply chains, some examples of good practice are noted.
Ms Croser continues: “These firms are acknowledging the drivers of modern slavery and situating their response within a broader strategy to respect human rights. We expect other businesses to step up to the mark in the second year of reporting under the UK Modern Slavery Act.”