Prime minister Theresa May has announced the launch of a central registry for modern slavery supply chain statements.
Speaking at the United Nations' International Labour Organization in Geneva, May said the registry would allow consumers to “see exactly which companies are serious about stamping out abuses and which should be avoided”.
“Modern slavery reaches into every corner of our lives – in the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the services we pay for,” she said.
“We must not attack modern slavery simply and solely from the supply end. Demand is just as important and modern slavery will remain a stain on our conscience as long as enough of us are willing to plead ignorance in return for higher profits and cheaper goods and services.”
May also called for “strengthening and improving the transparency statements required of big businesses and expanding the law to cover the public sector and its vast purchasing power”.
She said big businesses must take responsibility to ensure they are not relying on forced labour in their supply chains, stating if they “fail to act, politicians should not be afraid to make them”.
Leaders have a “moral duty” to speak on behalf of those affected by modern slavery and nations should use their combined public sector purchasing power as an “unprecedented lever with which to improve standards”, she added.
Last year, the UK developed a set of principles for nations to adopt in order to tackle modern slavery in global supply chains, alongside the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
The nations planned to use their $600bn of combined purchasing power to address and prevent modern slavery in public and private sector supply chains.
Last month, an independent review examining the effectiveness of the UK’s Modern Slavery Act (MSA) urged the government to ‘lead by example’ by extending reporting requirements of the MSA to cover the public sector.
It also called on the government to strengthen its approach to tackling non-compliance in publishing transparency statements, including “initial warnings, fines (as a percentage of turnover), court summons and directors’ disqualification”.
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.