Modern Slavery Definition
Modern slavery refers to various forms of exploitation and coercive practices that deprive individuals of their freedom, rights, and dignity. It encompasses situations where individuals are forced or coerced into labor, servitude, or human trafficking against their will. Modern slavery can take different forms, including forced labor, debt bondage, forced marriage, human trafficking, and child labor.
The International Labor Organisation estimates that over 50 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery. In recent years, supply chain transparency is a key policy strategy used by governments to identify and prevent business practices that lead to modern slavery.
Defining and Addressing Modern Slavery
The following entities have played a significant role in defining and addressing modern slavery:
International Labour Organization (ILO): The ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations and has been at the forefront of efforts to combat modern slavery. It has developed conventions, such as the Forced Labour Convention (No. 29) and the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, which provide definitions and guidelines for combating forced labor and human trafficking.
United Nations (UN): The UN has been actively involved in addressing modern slavery through various bodies, such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UNGIFT). The UN has also adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include a target (Goal 8.7) to eradicate forced labor, human trafficking, and child labor.
International Organization for Migration (IOM): The IOM is an intergovernmental organization that works on migration-related issues, including human trafficking and forced labor. It provides support to governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders in preventing and addressing modern slavery.
Walk Free Foundation: The Walk Free Foundation is a global organization dedicated to ending modern slavery. They have developed the Global Slavery Index, which provides estimates and data on the prevalence of modern slavery worldwide. The foundation also advocates for policy changes and raises awareness about modern slavery.
Anti-Slavery International: Anti-Slavery International is one of the oldest human rights organizations focused on ending slavery and related practices. They work to raise awareness, conduct research, and advocate for policies and initiatives to combat modern slavery.
These entities, among others, have contributed to the understanding and definition of modern slavery, as well as to the development of legal frameworks, initiatives, and campaigns aimed at combating this grave violation of human rights.
Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth)
The Modern Slavery Act 2018 in Australia is one of the world’s leading legislations for supply chain transparency aimed at combating modern slavery.
This act requires certain entities, including companies and other organizations, to report on the risks of modern slavery within their operations and supply chains. The act defines modern slavery to include practices such as forced labour, human trafficking, debt bondage, and child labour.
Reporting entities must submit an annual Modern Slavery Statement, detailing the steps taken to address and prevent modern slavery, and their due diligence processes. The act also established the Modern Slavery Reporting Requirement, which enhances transparency and accountability in supply chains.
Modern Slavery Legislation Around the World
From July 2020, amendments were made to the Customs Tariff Act 1997 in Canada, prohibiting the importation of goods produced entirely or partially through forced labor.
Additionally, the Canadian Parliament has passed a modern slavery law called the Fighting Against Forced Labour and Child Labour in Supply Chains Act (Bill S-211) in May 2023. This Act mandates government institutions and Canadian companies that meet specific revenue or employee thresholds to submit an annual report outlining measures taken to prevent and reduce the risk of forced labour or child labour within their operations or supply chains. Non-compliance could result in fines of up to CAD 250,000.
The Legal Affairs Committee has agreed on new rules that would require companies to integrate human rights and environmental impact into their governance. Under the proposed rules, companies would be obligated to identify and mitigate the negative impact of their activities, including child labour, slavery, pollution, and biodiversity loss. Companies would also need to evaluate their value-chain partners and take measures to remedy any adverse impacts. Non-compliant companies could face sanctions, fines, and exclusion from public procurement.
The Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law, enacted in 2017, requires French companies with over 5,000 employees to develop a public vigilance plan. This plan outlines measures to identify and prevent potential and actual human rights and environmental risks in their operations and supply chains. Failure to comply can lead to judicial enforcement and fines.
Germany enacted the Supply Chain Due Diligence Act in 2021, which comes into operation in 2023. This Act mandates companies based in Germany with over 3,000 employees (1,000 from 2024) to identify, assess, prevent, remedy, and report on human rights and environmental risks within their operations and supply chains. The Act specifically includes risks such as forced labor and child labor. Failure to comply can result in significant civil penalties and exclusion from winning public contracts.
In April 2022, the New Zealand Government released a draft legislative proposal with three aims: requiring all organizations to take action against modern slavery or worker exploitation in their international or domestic operations or supply chains, requiring medium and large organizations to disclose their preventive measures against modern slavery, and mandating large organizations to undertake due diligence to prevent modern slavery.
The Transparency Act, enacted in July 2022 in Norway, requires companies with 50 full-time employees to annually report on a human rights due diligence assessment of their operations and supply chains. Individuals have the right to seek information from companies about their human rights risks and due diligence activities.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 in the United Kingdom consolidates and strengthens slavery and human trafficking offenses, enables judicial restraining orders against alleged offenders, allows for the confiscation of criminal assets, provides support for victims, establishes an Anti-Slavery Commissioner, and includes a supply chain reporting requirement. Commercial organizations with a turnover of £36 million must publish an annual statement outlining the steps taken to prevent slavery and human trafficking within the organization or its supply chains. The reporting requirement is currently non-enforceable, but a 2019 independent review recommended strengthening and aligning it with the Australian Act.
United States of America:
The Transparency in Supply Chains Act 2010 requires California businesses with annual gross receipts of $100 million to publish an annual report on their efforts to eradicate human trafficking in their direct supply chains.
The Tariff Act in the United States has authorized the US Customs and Border Patrol since 1930 to issue "Withhold Release Orders" blocking the importation or sale of foreign merchandise reasonably suspected of involving forced or indentured labour.
The Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act of 2021 creates a rebuttable presumption that goods made in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China involve forced labour and are prohibited from entering the US.