Strategy published as government estimates up to 13,000 victims of modern slavery exist in UK

1 December 2014

The government has outlined its modern slavery strategy, detailing what is expected from departments, agencies and partners in the UK and abroad to tackle modern slavery in the UK.

This comes as analysis from the Home Office’s chief scientific adviser professor Bernard Silverman found in 2013 an estimated 10,000 to 13,000 people were potential victims of modern slavery in the UK.

These figures include both the cases of modern slavery known to the National Crime Agency’s Strategic Assessment on The Nature and Scale of Human Trafficking, and the ‘dark figure’ – the estimated cases that have not come to the government’s attention.

The modern slavery strategy includes plans to improve the way public sector procurement takes account of the potential for exploitation in supply chains. “We have already progressed measures at departmental and cross-government levels,” the strategy reads.

“For example, the NHS standard terms and conditions for suppliers include conditions on labour standards and the Department of Health and NHS Supply Chain have developed a labour standards assurance system for auditing suppliers in high-risk sectors.”

A pan-government approach to public sector procurement is also planned, which will require suppliers bidding for public contracts to satisfy government departments of their commitment to ensuring their supply chains are slavery-free before contracts are awarded.

The strategy also outlines the Cabinet Office and CIPS’ ethical awareness e-learning module which has been made available to all government procurement officials, and plans to survey the government’s strategic suppliers – which have over £100 million worth of contracts – on the steps they have taken and planned on ethical procurement and supply chain management.

This comes as more than 20 asset management providers added their support for the inclusion of supply chain reporting requirements in the Modern Slavery Bill, including BNP Paribas, Hermes and Rathbone Greenbank Investments.

“Supply chain mismanagement can cause serious damage to profitability, shareholder and fund value and reputation, both in the short and long term,” said Naheeda Rashid, associate director at Hermes Equity Ownership Services.

“Companies that are able to demonstrate they understand and are actively addressing the complexities of the risks in their supply chains will be better placed in managing both their reputation and disruptions to their operations,” she added.

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