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Global CEO blog

Welcome to the Global CEO (UK) blog. Its aim is to draw attention to developments and ideas in the world of procurement and supply management and in the work of the profession’s Institute.

We change the blog monthly, and I would welcome your comments personally on ceoblog@cips.org

David Noble FCIPS


The hidden crime

It’s a sad truth that in these modern times we are still talking about the enforced slavery of human beings.

For many people, consumers, businesses and governments, this has come as a shock. In this modern, global, fast-moving, changing world, the concept of slavery seems stuck in the 18th century as something hideous, historical and largely eradicated.

And yet the evidence is here before us:

  • 29.8 million people in modern day slavery as reported by The Global Slavery Index 2013 from Walk Free
  • Slavery includes child marriage and human trafficking
  • Though the UK is amongst the lowest, there are still an estimated 5,000 slaves in the UK that are making the clothes we wear and picking the food we eat


Now the UK Government has taken a stand with the draft Modern Slavery Bill. They have recognised that criminal gangs in the UK and elsewhere have the power to move people against their will, into the sex industry, into construction, into fruit picking, working long hours, for little or no payment and with no hope of freedom in sight. The bill proposes that the perpetrators of this evil trade will themselves be imprisoned for life if convicted, and there will be a special whistleblowing process that will make reporting suspected slavery that much easier.

However the devil is always in the detail. Any legislation must result in practical, achieveable steps with minimal red tape and maximum clarity on how full eradication can be realised. Full and frank consultation with business will help develop the road ahead and it’s good to see that so many are already supporting this move.

It is a significant change to legislation that companies are required to reference modern day slavery in their annual reports and that evidence of how staff have been trained will need to be demonstrated. This will be the crux of any success. These good intentions will fall at the first hurdle without adequately trained professionals in place to spot potential slavery in their supply chains.

This bill is long-awaited and is a good step towards the goal of full eradication. For too long business, stakeholders, investors and governments have closed their eyes to transparency in their supply chains, whether intentionally or unintentionally. This has resulted in abuse on a wider scale than many of us may have imagined and has resulted in risks to our society, global business and economies.

If you haven’t attempted the CIPS ethics test yet, then I urge you to spend just a couple of hours in this next year to show your commitment to making a start on a new ethical journey. Our staff are undertaking this test at CIPS too so we can achieve our own ethical mark. I hope you will join us.

Catch up with my column in Supply Management magazine