In our day to day lives we all buy goods and services. Have you ever wondered why so many items have a very low cost? Have you ever thought “I wonder how they can make that product for that price and still make a profit?” Have you also wondered about the food you buy and where it comes from?

Many individuals and organisations are not aware that slavery, including child labour or forced or bonded labour, may have been involved to produce or deliver the products or services they’ve purchased.

You may think that slavery was abolished a long time ago, in fact there are more people living in slavery now than at any other time in the world’s history.

There are an estimated 40.3 million people living in slavery today; with the majority being in the South East Asia region, which is a large trading region for Australia.

The loss of these people’s freedom and the conditions that most of the victims of slavery live and work under are completely unacceptable.

Most people and organisations are shocked when they are made aware of this. They do not want to contribute to the use of slave labour or to have products and services imposed on them for purchase that includes slave labour.

Some organisations have suffered serious brand reputation and diminished shareholder value when external sources find their products or services include slavery. They are then compelled to implement programs to review and educate their supply chain to eliminate slavery and improve conditions for workers.

Australia rejects slavery:

In 2010 Andrew Forrest Australian mining magnate along with his wife Nicola and daughter Grace founded The Walkfree Foundation with a mission to end modern-day slavery. Walkfree works to identify countries and industries most responsible for modern-day slavery; collaborates to develop and implement interventions likely to have the greatest impact on ending slavery; assesses the impact of those efforts and publishes the Global Slavery Index.

The Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018 is now in place, while commencement of the NSW Modern Slavery Act 2018 has been delayed pending further consultation and review. These Acts are similar to the UK’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act, which require certain businesses to produce an annual modern slavery statement outlining actions they are taking to manage modern slavery risks in their supply chain.

How to make a difference

As individuals ask if products are ethically sourced, get the message out to those you buy from or invest with that this is important to you. Wherever you can, always favour brands and providers that are trying to make a difference.

Procurement professionals can play a key role in influencing change by (for example) –

  • Clearly communicating sustainable procurement policies,
  • Ensuring requirements and expectations are fair and reasonable,
  • Reviewing and educating supply chains, and
  • Working with business partners and stakeholders to champion and support transparency and ethical behaviour.

Finally, there are plenty of resources that can help you, below are some examples: