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Technology industry essential to eradicating modern slavery in retail supply chains

“There are more people in slavery today than at any other time in history, which is an unacceptable affront to human rights.” Leas Bachatene CEO, ethiXbase

ethiXbase, a leading ESG and value chain sustainability solutions company, has called for more accurate supply chain auditing and thorough risk assessments of complex logistical networks.

A new report published today by ethiXbase highlights how the technology industry is essential to eradicating forced labour in retail supply chains. Value chain sustainability solutions company, ethiXbase, is now calling for more in-depth auditing and thorough risk assessments of retailers’ third-party networks to eradicate modern slavery.

The retail sector is one of the most prominent industries where modern slavery is likely to occur. This is primarily due to the retail sector’s international reach and the sheer complexity of the modern retail supply chain where products pass through a long chain of producers, manufacturers, and distributors before arriving at retail locations.

The intricate system renders traditional audit methods ineffective in detecting slavery within supply chains, as proved by a recent investigation that found widespread exploitation of workers in meat plants across Europe. This is just one of many examples of the enormous business of forced labour which is estimated to generate roughly US $150 billion in profits every year.

The new report, titled Tackling Modern Slavery in the Retail Industry, recognises that increasingly complex supply chains have stretched the ability of many organisations to appropriately vet and monitor their suppliers and provides practical advice to help retailers look systemically for red flags.

“Achieving comprehensive visibility into every link of an organisation’s supply chain and sourcing processes, while daunting, should be a priority. Thankfully we now have the technology and tools to simplify this process. It is possible to easily aggregate vast amounts of data from multiple sources to provide an overarching view of the potential risk a third-party may represent to an organisation. Checks that would previously be extremely time consuming or impossible due to the sheer scale of a retailer’s third-party ecosystem can now be automated and carried out regularly without much manual input. Suppliers can be monitored on an ongoing basis to ensure retailers aren’t caught off-guard should anything change after the initial onboarding. In essence, the whole third-party compliance lifecycle can be streamlined by using technology,” says Leas Bachatene, CEO, ethiXbase.

In collaboration with global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, ethiXbase has developed a Modern Slavery Risk Assessment Module that helps businesses identify, mitigate, and manage their modern slavery risk. With the new module, the ethiXbase 360 Third-Party Risk Management Platform is now uniquely placed to help organisations assess and address modern slavery risk within their supply chains.

Cultivating effective strategies to tackle the risk of modern slavery in retail industries will require a clear grasp of where risks lie in the supply chain, an action plan designed to tackle those risks, accompanying remediation policies, and effective monitoring and ongoing reporting.

To help retailers meet the ambitious target of eradicating modern slavery, the new report calls upon retailers to take the following steps:

  1. Attain maximum supply chain transparency and improve downward visibility of potential risk areas. Retailers need to review their due diligence processes to ensure that they are fit for purpose and track reports of forced labour and trafficking.

  2. Add forced labour monitoring and policing to existing third-party compliance processes to minimise the risk. While paper-based self-attest compliance reports are an integral part of the program, in-person audits are a much more effective tool when it comes to detecting labour abuses.

  3. Recognise workers’ rights and ensure that workers can claim these rights as the risk of modern slavery dramatically decreases in workplaces where trade unions are encouraged to operate.

  4. Work with others who specialise in detecting modern slavery to benefit from their expertise in resolving the complex issue of forced labour. Expert NGOs can help identify cases of modern slavery and find effective strategies to tackle them.

  5. Demand improved enforcement and regulation by the authorities to create a level playing field and root out businesses that derive competitive advantage from modern slavery. For example, the relentless drive for lower prices only reinforces the reliance on cheaper, forced labour and improved regulation would address this pressure on pricing.

“There are more people in slavery today than at any other time in history, which is an unacceptable affront to human rights. While it is generally accepted that businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights and to protect workers in their own supply chain, we need to see less talk and more action. Every organisation has a moral obligation to do everything in their power to make forced labour history,” adds Bachatene.

The report can be downloaded here.

About ethiXbase:

ethiXbase is a value chain sustainability solutions business that delivers robust technology and data analytics to assist corporates and third parties, create and maintain sustainable business practices. We create the most intuitive, robust, and configurable platform to help firms globally, elevate their third-party supply chain in the areas of Anti-Corruption, Human Rights, Environment, and Labour.

Learn more about how we can help your business identify, mitigate, and manage modern slavery risk and human rights abuses across your supply and manufacturing chains.

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