The reality of climate change and the detrimental impact of the fossil fuel industry on the environment and human rights is no longer disputed in mainstream circles.
In fact, on May 26, 2021, known to climate campaigners as “Black Wednesday” an unprecedented signal was sent to the oil industry that the world is no longer willing to allow companies to get away with destructive behavior unsanctioned.
On “ Black Wednesday”, a trio of oil giants, Chevron, Shell and Exxon, were forced to take steps to mitigate climate effects.
Nick Grono, CEO of the anti-slavery NGO, Freedom Fund, writes in Thomson Reuters,
Over the past five years, litigation against fossil fuel companies has taken hold internationally. The case against Royal Dutch Shell is emblematic in finding that the company had a legal obligation to prevent climate change across its entire value chain. It potentially paves the way for similar lawsuits against companies that have failed to address human rights violations, including modern slavery, in their operations and supply chains.
Investors are also taking an increasingly tougher line on corporate polluters. Some of the largest asset managers, including BlackRock, are pushing companies to disclose emissions across their supply chains and draw up plans to decarbonise their operations. Investor-led campaigns such as ‘Say on Climate’ and Climate Action 100+ continue to build momentum by securing commitments from some of the largest greenhouse gas emitters.
Grono thinks the same is possible for the modern slavery movement. One technique yet untapped, he posits, is shareholder influence and activism.
He also advocates for stronger legislation tackling non-compliance, noting that, “Across environment and human rights, the corporate accountability agenda has been hindered by relying on voluntary efforts.”
Legislative accountability for big business is high on the agenda for some of us in the movement. The Freedom United community has been pushing for the U.S., U.K., and E.U. to pass mandatory human rights due diligence legislation as well as other policies to place the responsibility for corporate supply chains back where it belongs.
From years of community mobilizing, we know that getting such measures passed requires decision-makers knowing that there is a groundswell of support for them. This is what the environmental protection movement had to engage in for decades before they could be in such a position today.
Encouragingly, conscious consumerism increasingly extends not only to environment protection concerns but also forced labor. Big business is listening. Further, though interventions are not yet where we want them to be, more governments are also talking about preventing modern slavery.
We must keep up the pressure to one day get to a place where businesses are held accountable for modern slavery in their operations. Join the campaign today.