Three quarters of Canadian firms 'fail to support suppliers to reduce slavery'

10 June 2016

Consumers in Canada are being left in the dark about the risk of slavery and child labour in the supply chains of goods they purchase, a report claims.

It added that transparency laws similar to those in the UK should be introduced.

More than half (52%) of 44 companies assessed, which were all importers of goods known to have a high risk of supply chain slavery, did not provide any public information on how they were reducing that risk.

The report estimated at least CAN$34.3bn worth of imports in all sectors of the economy came from countries and industries that give them a high risk of being produced by slave labour.

In its Child and Forced Labour report, advocacy group World Vision called upon the Canadian government to pass laws “requiring companies to post comprehensive statements outlining steps taken to address child and forced labour in the supply chain,” following the lead of the UK and California.

The report said that “even the most proactive shoppers [in Canada] are unable to make informed, ethical purchasing decisions because most companies fail to provide adequate information” about their supply chains.

No Canadian company was accused of being intentionally complicit in slavery.

World Vision’s report selected a range of importers of items on the US Department of Labour’s 2014 List of Goods Produced by Child Labour or Forced Labour, which is catalogue of products and corresponding countries the US government has reason to believe are produced by child or slave labour.

The companies were then assessed based on how transparent they were about their “basic policies and due diligence mechanisms needed to effectively mitigate the risk” of slave labour in the supply chain. 

Of the companies analysed, three quarters provided no public evidence of training or supporting suppliers to reduce slavery, 55% gave no information about their auditing process and only 33% provided any evidence of systems to report slavery in supply chains.

Food wholesalers and producers were singled out as being the least transparent, with only one of the 10 companies assessed providing any public information about how they were addressing the risk of slavery in their supply chains. 

The report suggested the Canadian government adopt legislation similar to the provisions in the UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015, which requires companies with a turnover more than £36m a year to publish reports outlining the steps they are taking to identify and eradicate slavery in their supply chains.

It added: “By harnessing consumer, investor and competitive pressure, these ‘light touch’ laws... create positive incentives for companies to proactively deal with these issues.”

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