Top table support key to tackling slavery

27 October 2016

The number of senior executives actively engaging in modern slavery issues has doubled among companies leading on the issue.

A survey of businesses by the Ethical Trading Initiative and Hult International Business School found there were twice as many CEOs and other senior executives in their sample engaging in the issue since the Modern Slavery Act came into force last October.

Of the companies that responded, 50% said their CEO was actively involved in addressing modern slavery.

The report said when senior leaders were more engaged in anti-slavery issues, more resources were allocated to addressing the problem. It also said senior leaders had a key role in formalising objectives and ensuring responsibility is shared throughout the business.

When it came to addressing slavery, a fifth of respondents said their chairman was involved, a fifth said their COO was and 15% cited their CFO.

The survey found procurement was actively involved in addressing modern slavery at 61% of firms.

The survey included 71 brands across different sectors, chosen because of their reputation as being leaders in ethical trade or because they have expressed a public commitment to addressing modern slavery. The report also conducted in-depth interviews with 25 of these companies.

Among the companies surveyed were Marks and Spencer and SABMiller, both of which scored highly on their risk assessment and due diligence in a recent study of FTSE100 companies

Other companies surveyed included Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Patagonia and Tesco.

The report said there was a “high degree of consensus” on what made an effective response to the risk of modern slavery among the companies it considered more experienced.

It said 90% of businesses felt developing long-term relationships with suppliers was a more effective way of managing risk than switching suppliers because they posed a short-term risk.

The majority of companies also said focusing their KPIs on impact rather than actions was key to improving conditions for workers. However, fewer than 37% of companies have put these KPIs in place, the report said.

Meanwhile, the Home Office has announced it is creating an £11m Modern Slavery Innovation Fund, paid for out of the £33m the prime minister set aside from the foreign aid budget in July

Organisations can bid for funding for schemes that, among other objectives, encourage responsible business practices and slavery-free supply chains.

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