Cotton harvesting © 123RF
Cotton harvesting © 123RF

Procurement professionals unprepared for Modern Slavery Act

Paul Snell is managing editor at Supply Management
21 January 2016

One fifth of UK procurement professionals at business with over £36m annual turnover are not aware of their obligations under the Modern Slavery Act – and one in four purchasers and supply chain managers at UK businesses that are subject to the Act do not understand how to comply with its requirements.

O
ne fifth of UK procurement professionals at business with over £36m annual turnover are not aware of their obligations under the Modern Slavery Act – and one in four purchasers and supply chain managers at UK businesses that are subject to the Act do not understand how to comply with its requirements. An equivalent proportion have not taken any steps to ensure their business complies with the legislation, with only 60% having read the accompanying UK government guidance.
These are the startling findings of a CIPS survey of more than 500 purchasing and supply chain professionals examining the readiness of businesses for reporting under the regulations. The Act, which came into force in October 2015, requires companies with a turnover in excess of £36m to publish a statement online detailing what they are doing to tackle slavery and human trafficking in their supply chain.
Only 31% of those surveyed had a plan for the drafting and approval of the statement by senior management, with only 38% of buyers actually knowing when they have to publish their first statement. Organisations with a financial year that ends on 31 March 2016 have to publish a statement for the 2015/16 financial year within six months of its end. Those organisations whose year ended between 29 October 2015 and 30 March 2016 will not need to report for the 2015/16 financial year.
The majority of professionals haven’t acted to tackle the problem of slavery in the supply chain: the poll finds that just 34% have mapped their suppliers to understand the potential risks and exposure to modern slavery, under 5% have carried out site inspections and less than 2% have provided info to employees and local suppliers on compliance. As a result, 27% of respondents can’t be certain there is no slavery within their supply chain.
Even if they identified the problem, more than half of procurement professionals admitted they wouldn’t know how to tackle it. And some 24% were not confident they knew how to influence their suppliers to improve matters.

An equivalent proportion have not taken any steps to ensure their business complies with the legislation, with only 60% having read the accompanying UK government guidance.

These are the startling findings of a CIPS survey of more than 500 purchasing and supply chain professionals examining the readiness of businesses for reporting under the regulations. The Act, which came into force in October 2015, requires companies with a turnover in excess of £36m to publish a statement online detailing what they are doing to tackle slavery and human trafficking in their supply chain.

Only 31% of those surveyed had a plan for the drafting and approval of the statement by senior management, with only 38% of buyers actually knowing when they have to publish their first statement. Organisations with a financial year that ends on 31 March 2016 have to publish a statement for the 2015/16 financial year within six months of its end. Those organisations whose year ended between 29 October 2015 and 30 March 2016 will not need to report for the 2015/16 financial year.

The majority of professionals haven’t acted to tackle the problem of slavery in the supply chain: the poll finds that just 34% have mapped their suppliers to understand the potential risks and exposure to modern slavery, under 5% have carried out site inspections and less than 2% have provided info to employees and local suppliers on compliance. As a result, 27% of respondents can’t be certain there is no slavery within their supply chain.

Even if they identified the problem, more than half of procurement professionals admitted they wouldn’t know how to tackle it. And some 24% were not confident they knew how to influence their suppliers to improve matters.

David Noble, group CEO, CIPS, said: "Our findings suggest that good intent is not yet translating into action. With little motivation and no sanctions to speak of, this requirement rests on goodwill and general awareness. Consumers, communities and businesses deserve better."

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