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Press Association Images

'Don't be scared of finding slavery in your supply chain'

Procurement professionals concerned about complying with the law on supply chain transparency have been told not to be afraid of finding slavery. 

Andrew Wallis, CEO of Unseen, made the comments while explaining the implications of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 at the LUPC & SUPC Conference.

Under section 54 of the Act, all businesses active in the UK with a turnover of more than £36m are required to write and publish an annual supply chain transparency statement.

Wallis also told the conference that millennials and generation Z “need complete transparency”, but said they don’t punish companies that can demonstrate what they are doing to address supply chain slavery.

“The transparency agenda is the agenda,” said Wallis. “Whether it’s on the environment, whether it’s on sustainability, whether it’s on modern slavery. Companies, governments, increasingly cannot hide behind: ‘well that’s not in the public interest’.

“If this is all completely new to you and you’re completely freaking out about it, my advice is in year one to say, ‘We’re freaking out about it, we’re going to spend the next 12 or 24 months un-freaking and will continually report’,” said Wallis.

Annual reporting has an “iterative nature” and there was no expectation on companies to have all the answers on supply chain slavery in their first year. 

“You will probably not get there in year five because of the complexity of what we’re dealing with, but [you will be] beginning to show that progression,” said Wallis.

In the age of digital media, Wallis warned, companies should never make the mistake of believing they can control a bad PR story. “Because stories, once they’re out there, once you’ve got the internet, go global. Not in days, or hours; in milliseconds,” he said.

“Don’t fall into the trap of ever saying you’re slave free; you can’t say that with 100% certainty,” said Wallis. “But say: ‘Here are all the steps that we are taking to ensure that we are as slave free as possible and investigating. And here’s all the evidence that shows that we’re proactive about it’.

“‘And you know what if we find it, we’re not freaked by it; we know how to deal with it.’”

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