What are the challenges?
Right now, there are many reasons why it is not easy to buy slavery-free. This is because many workers have contributed to getting that final product to you. Just think about the device you’re reading this on–there are the miners who dug out the precious metals, the factory workers who made the components and then those that assembled, packaged, transported and distributed the final product.
Also the final retailer has not always looked right down their supply chain to know all of the workers involved. Some supply chains are long and complex and involve many different countries and companies, over whom the retailer might have little influence.
Sometimes a company has been asked to fulfill an order that it might not have the capacity to meet. It may subcontract part of that work to another company without the purchasing company’s knowledge. Whilst a business must take responsibility for the conditions of subcontracted work, a customer must also consider the impact of its purchasing practices on the ability of that supplier to ensure that workers’ rights are respected.
Despite these challenges, if a company can ensure the quality of a product it offers, it should also be able to ensure the working conditions for those involved in its production. That’s why we are encouraging companies to take action to ensure slavery is not a part of their supply chain.
How can I buy slavery-free products?
We look forward to a future when you can easily and actively have confidence that the products and services you buy are slavery-free. Meanwhile, you can ask questions when you shop. Does your local retailer stock fairly traded products? Do they know how the goods you are buying were produced? Is there a certification scheme that has checked the production process and does it include labour standards?
If you visiting a restaurant or staying in a hotel, you could ask if the managers directly employ the workers and if they are familiar with their terms and conditions. You could write to the company headquarters asking what measures the company is taking to identify, prevent and end the use of modern slavery in their business. You can also check out this guide from Ethical Consumer for more information.
What’s happening now?
Momentum is growing and companies’ awareness of modern slavery is increasing. The UK Modern Slavery Act requires companies to report on their policies, training programs, their supply chain, the measures they are taking to assess and manage risk and how effective those measures are.