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When you think about managing business risk,  modern slavery is probably the last thing that comes to mind. Since slavery is  illegal everywhere, it shouldn’t even be a concern, right?


Wrong. Nearly 36 million people, more than at  any other time in history, are trapped  in some form of slavery, according to the second annual Global Slavery Index. Produced by the Walk Free  Foundation—a global organization with a mission to end  modern slavery by mobilizing activism, generating high-quality research, enlisting  business engagement, and raising capital to drive change—the Index is recognized as the seminal authority on modern slavery, which includes human trafficking, forced  labor, and other slavery-like practices such as debt bondage and the  exploitation of children.

What’s  more, modern slavery is big business. Slave labor contributes to the production  of at least 122 goods from 58 countries, and the International Labour  Organization calculates that forced labor generates US$150 billion annually in  illicit profits worldwide, with US$32 billion in the United States alone.i Walk Free warns that the majority of companies will be exposed to some risk of  forced labor or slavery in their supply chains—and it’s not always obvious. Read more




Why is modern slavery relevant to business?

Business most often comes into contact with modern slavery where there are complex global supply chains. One of the most important challenges for procurement professionals is therefore to ensure that their supply chains do not unwittingly involve exploitative labour, and that they are as far as possible ‘slavery proof.’


What Makes You Vulnerable?

As a seller, you not only form part of your  customers’ supply chains, but also have one yourself—based on the items and  services you purchase to support your own business. In either instance, having  a connection with slavery can prove disruptive, damaging, or both. Common practices  that make a company particularly vulnerable include:


  • Doing business across borders and in  countries with weak regulatory environments
  • Relying on migrant workers recruited by  labor agencies or brokers
  • Having a multi-tiered supply chain, with  layers outside your immediate control
  • Purchasing raw materials from at-risk industries
  • Using subcontractors or illegal  immigrants for cleaning and other low-skilled tasks


If your largest customer suddenly required proof  that your operations are above reproach and started asking questions like those  in this self-assessment questionnaire, would your company pass the test? That day may come soon, and when big businesses start  raising their standards, the trickle-down effect on smaller sellers can be  enormous. Aside from the obvious moral implications, consequences can include lower  sales, loss of market share, and potentially irreparable harm to your brand.


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Need additional resources?




Modern Slavery by ibe

Modern Day Slavery by Sedex Global

Tackling Modern Slavery In Supply Chains by Walk Free Foundation

Modern-Day Slavery–$150 Billion Global Industry, 30 Million in Servitude: Business Must End ‘Forced Labor’ in Supply Chains by BizShifts-Trends