It also found that engagement of senior leaders is seen by all companies as crucial in driving effective responses and overcoming critical challenges, with 79 per cent of companies citing senior leadership passion and engagement as a key driver of their modern slavery response. As a result, most companies have made modern slavery training and awareness-raising for senior leaders a priority.
- Addressing fundamental business models and sector specific challenges.
82% of companies believe that addressing human rights within their core business model is the most significant strategic indicator of corporate leadership on modern slavery. Examples of issues being examined included sourcing decisions, pricing, last-minute changes to orders, short lead times and sector-specific issues such as seasonal labour recruitment practices. Companies are finding activities to address these issues particularly hard to put into practice.
- Long-term, partnership-based relationships with suppliers.
93% felt long-term relationships and working with suppliers to address issues would be far more effective in the long term than simply switching suppliers to manage short-term risk. The majority of companies were making significant progress on putting this type of approach in place.
- Due diligence.
90% of respondents saw due diligence on core labour standards as crucial. Leading companies are increasingly conducting human rights risk analyses by country, sector or type of labour and prioritizing their salient risks accordingly. 71% had these processes formalized and embedded in their operations.
- Involving workers in finding solutions.
All responding companies are increasingly trying to directly involve workers who are most at risk of modern slavery. This means recognizing that workers themselves need to be actively engaged in mitigating modern slavery risks. Whilst some companies are engaging with trade unions to raise worker voice, only 31% see trade unions as critical stakeholders in addressing modern slavery.
- Corrective action and remediation.
Once an issue of modern slavery is uncovered, 93% of companies highlighted that they have a responsibility not only to do everything in their power to address it, but also to ensure that workers most affected are protected from further harm and compensated appropriately. While companies were making strong progress on corrective actions with suppliers, only 40% of companies had clear remediation plans in place.
- KPIs focused on impact rather than activity.
The majority of responding companies cited developing KPIs that are focused on impact rather than activity as key to improving conditions for workers, yet fewer than 37% of companies have managed to put these in place. All participants highlighted the need for greater effort to develop KPIs that drive the right kinds of outcomes.
Companies report greater levels of collaboration since the Modern Slavery Act was passed. Companies recognized their role as just one of many actors on modern slavery, and that they cannot deal with modern slavery risks alone. They are collaborating with, and want to partner more with other companies, suppliers, governments, trade unions
and NGOs to develop effective solutions to address modern slavery.
CEOs and other senior figures have a key role to play in engaging with these external stakeholders, whether with industry peers, governments or NGOs. In many cases, they are using this external engagement to refine the company’s own strategy – i.e., what are others doing? Where can we lead? Where can we support? Leaders are driving the discussion on what can be done on a strategic, industry level to address modern slavery challenges.
Companies strongly believe effective engagement and action in partnership with governments, NGOs and charities, and other local stakeholders is critical for significant change, as many of the systemic, underlying challenges of modern slavery are linked to a lack of government policy or enforcement i.e. insufficient regulation or enforcement of standards to protect migrant workers.
Ultimately, addressing the risk of modern slavery is about addressing the human rights risks to people – whether they are directly employed, agency workers, or are working in the supply chain. Though there is much more work to do, it is encouraging to see the steps, leading businesses are taking, and as more good practice emerges it is hoped that more companies will be able to make faster progress for those who are most at risk.
Read more about the research, including full report and case studies, at www.ashridge.org.uk/modernslavery and www.ethicaltrade.org.