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Tuesday, November 26 • 15:00 - 16:20
Transparency and beyond: taking stock of legislative approaches to eradicating modern slavery in global supply chains

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Session organized by Freedom Fund, Minderoo Foundation and Global Business Initiative on Human Rights.

Interpretation provided in English French, Spanish and Portuguese by DOCIP.

Session description
Modern slavery is pervasive in global supply chains, generating an estimated $150 billion in illicit profits each year. As part of their commitment to end this scourge, some governments have introduced legislation imposing a positive obligation on companies to address modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. To date, most laws have focused on adopting mandatory disclosure regimes. The ground breaking transparency in supply chains provisions of the UK Modern Slavery Act, followed by the recent adoption of the Australian Modern Slavery Act in 2018, have played a key role in raising awareness of modern slavery in the private sector. However, monitoring of company compliance in the four years since the introduction of the UK law has demonstrated that there is still a long way to go to eradicate modern slavery from company supply chains and that, whilst come companies are making serious efforts, many businesses have not demonstrated a commitment to tackle the issue.

Meanwhile, other countries have adopted alternative models of supply chain legislation to address modern slavery, including mandatory human rights due diligence. With growing global momentum around the introduction of supply chain legislation, what lessons can be learned from mandatory disclosure regimes in the UK and Australia? Are other legislative initiatives that go beyond disclosure more likely to lead to concrete shifts in business practice? Drawing insights from government, business and civil society stakeholders, this session will provide a stock-take of current legislative efforts to catalyse action by the private sector to prevent modern slavery and protect workers in their supply chains.

Session objectives
The objectives of the session will be to:
  • Learn from the UK and Australian governments’ experience in their efforts to introduce disclosure requirements to tackle modern slavery in supply chains.
  • Provide civil society and business perspectives on the impact of current modern slavery supply chain disclosure requirements, using compliance with the UK Modern Slavery Act as a case study.
  • Highlight alternative models of legislation to drive business action to address modern slavery in supply chains, including mandatory human rights due diligence legislation.

Key discussion questions
  • To what extent has the introduction of mandatory disclosure laws led to business action to tackle modern slavery?
  • How can mandatory disclosure laws be strengthened to improve business compliance?
  • What alternative legislative models, beyond disclosure, have the potential to disrupt modern slavery in supply chains?

Format of the session
The session will be separated into two parts:
The first part (30 minutes, moderated by Katharine Bryant) will focus on the UK and Australian Modern Slavery Acts: government representatives from the UK and Australia will speak about their experience in adopting mandatory disclosure laws, followed by reflections on the progress achieved by these laws by representatives from business and civil society.
The second part (30 minutes, moderated by Amol Mehra) will explore other legislative approaches to tackling modern slavery in supply chains: representatives from Brazil, Hong Kong and Netherlands (tbc), will discuss current and proposed modern slavery legislation, reflecting on obstacles and challenges in adopting and enforcing these laws.
The conversation will then be opened to the floor for pre-selected comments from business and civil society on the opportunities and challenges posed by these alternative models, followed by audience Q&A (20 minutes).

Background to the discussion
Increased awareness and concern among consumers, investors, policymakers and the business community about the prevalence of modern slavery in global supply chains has led to a number of countries introducing legislation to clarify expectations of companies and to encourage corporate action. Although business action alone will not eradicate modern slavery, supply chain legislation is a critical element of the broader government response required to tackle this scourge. Most laws have focused on disclosure, requiring large companies operating in these countries to publish an annual statement on their efforts to eliminate modern slavery from their supply chains. Introduced in 2015, the disclosure requirements in the UK Modern Slavery Act focused attention on the issue in the private sector, encouraging other governments to consider adopting similar legislation. In 2018, the Australian Modern Slavery Act was enacted, building on the disclosure requirements of the UK law.

Civil society monitoring of company compliance under the UK Act has highlighted that while some businesses have demonstrated a genuine commitment to tackle the issue, many companies have not taken robust action to address modern slavery risks. Civil society, as well as business, has been increasingly vocal on the need to strengthen the UK law – with concerns about its effectiveness highlighted in a recent independent review.

While disclosure laws may have generated the most attention, other countries have adopted different approaches to regulate corporate action to tackle modern slavery. In Brazil, the Dirty List publishes the names of companies found to be profiting from slave labour. In April this year, the Dutch Senate voted to adopt the Child Labour Due Diligence Law, requiring companies to show that they have carried out due diligence related to child labour in their global supply chains. This important development reflects the growing momentum among governments to adopt mandatory human rights due diligence legislation, pushing businesses to go further than modern slavery disclosure.

avatar for Katharine Bryant

Katharine Bryant

Manager- Global Research, Walk Free Initiative
avatar for Amol Mehra

Amol Mehra

Managing Director, The Freedom Fund

avatar for Laureen van Breen

Laureen van Breen

Managing Director, WikiRate
At WikiRate we have developed an open data platform that allows anyone to systematically gather, analyze and report publicly available information on corporate ESG practices. By bringing this information together in one place, and making it accessible, comparable and free for all... Read More →

Catie Shavin

Director, Global Business Initiative on Human Rights
avatar for Dennis Kwok

Dennis Kwok

Member, Hong Kong Legislative Council
Dennis Kwok represents the legal profession in the Legislative Council. He is currently the Executive Committee Member of Civic Party and a member of the Professionals Guild, an alliance among functional constituency members of the Legislative Council. The protection of "One Country... Read More →
avatar for Bradley Armstrong

Bradley Armstrong

Group Manager Customs Group, Australian Border Force
Brad Armstrong commenced as Deputy Comptroller-General and Group Manager of Customs Group on 1 July 2019. Prior to his appointment, from September 2018 Brad was First Assistant Secretary, Trade and Customs Division. He joined the Department of Home Affairs from the Department of Foreign... Read More →

Tulio Gadelha

Deputy, Brazilian Congress
avatar for Urmila Bhoola

Urmila Bhoola

Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences

Tuesday November 26, 2019 15:00 - 16:20 CET
Room XIX