As Australia nears the introduction of a Modern Slavery Act, some retailers may not be ready to show how their products are free from slave labor.
Last month a joint federal parliament committee recommended that the government create a Modern Slavery Act that would require companies to report on how they are addressing modern slavery in their supply chains. Specifically, the committee suggested that businesses with an annual revenue of more than $50 million should have to report and a list of those that comply would be made public. After two years the government would name and shame companies that did not report or take action to end exploitation.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that some MPs are calling for a financial penalty as well:
“I do realise that for larger companies, if the penalty is $100 or $1000 or $10,000 it may not be a disincentive in and of itself, [but] if that is public knowledge that’s not a good look for a large company trying to build a public image,” said Liberal MP for Dunkley Chris Crewther.
Carolyn Kitto, a director at anti-slavery group Stop The Traffik, said while some businesses were concerned about the cost of complying, “there’s going to be way more of a cost if you don’t do the right thing and human slavery is found in your supply chain”.
Australian Retailers Association chairman Russel Zimmerman, believes that there may be an upside to reporting as stores could promote the fact that their products were ethically sourced. Yet he added that the retail body would push for “light touch” regulation wherein retailers would only have to one step down the supply chain and get assurance from suppliers that their products were clean.
“We don’t want these regulations to make retailers go to the shirt manufacturer, to the cotton manufacturer, to the button manufacturer, to the supplier of the material, to whoever else it may be,” he said.