Tackling Modern Slavery With Transparency: GRI to Support the Reporting Community

Dec 13, 2017 12:05 PM ET

Do you want to improve the way you report on modern slavery? Are you willing to support other companies as they begin to communicate on the issue? You can now join GRI's work and engage in cutting-edge dialogue about the challenges and opportunities of transparency on modern slavery with diverse stakeholders, such as investors, media, human rights and legal experts and governments.  ​

Modern slavery is a growing concern: an estimated 45.8 million people across 167 countries were in some form of modern slavery in 2016. The International Labor Organization estimates that 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are children, while women and girls account for over 70% of the total.

Modern slavery is a term that captures a range of human rights issues, including forced labor, bonded labor, human trafficking and child slavery. The exploitation of workers, which often occurs in global value chains, is a pressing human rights issue that continues to occur in the private sector. Over the past decade, modern slavery has therefore become a key concern for many policymakers, civil society, consumers, investors, businesses and other stakeholders.

This has prompted governments worldwide to draft legislation, requiring companies to perform due diligence in their supply chain to tackle modern slavery. The most well-known example is the UK Modern Slavery Act, which requires companies domiciled or doing business in the UK to report on the measures they take to prevent slavery or human trafficking in their supply chains. Enacted in 2015, this followed the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which came into effect in 2012. A similar act is now underway in Australia, and several other countries have introduced supply chain due diligence bills in parliament, including France, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

GRI’s effort to combat modern slavery through transparency

GRI strongly supports corporate transparency as a proven driver for businesses' ability to detect, respect and remedy human rights abuses in value chains and to mitigate negative economic, environmental and social impacts. GRI believes that increasing corporate transparency through disclosure is key in tackling exploitation along value chains, as reporting unveils information on the nature of modern slavery practices and can therefore enable decisions towards its elimination while holding companies accountable.

At GRI, we are monitoring these developments closely and play an active role in the global elimination of modern slavery. Together with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), GRI is working to create more transparency around pressing sustainability issues in global value chains, including modern slavery. GRI is also actively involved in key policy discussions on modern slavery, holding the position of Knowledge Partner in the Bali Process Government and Business Forum, which was set up to combat people smuggling, human trafficking and related transnational crimes, and which has prioritized supply chain transparency as a way forward.

Despite existing reporting frameworks and regulations, reporting on modern slavery is still a struggle for companies. According to the CORE Coalition, only about 14% percent out of over 2,100 statements comply with the minimum requirements under the UK Modern Slavery Act. Companies are expressing concerns in the Australian consultation for a Modern Slavery Act about the reporting burden related to the emergence of different reporting requirements in different jurisdictions, yet affecting the same companies operating globally. Likewise, stakeholders are concerned about the reduced usefulness of data if it is not standardized and readily accessible.

To support companies reporting on modern slavery and aspiring to meeting regulatory and stakeholders’ expectations, GRI is undertaking a new work stream that aims to provide solutions that increase the effectiveness and utility of reported data to drive change. This work will include an important stakeholder consultation, with the ultimate aim of supporting harmonization across reporting requirements in the future. The outcome of the process will provide points for consistency and comparability in reporting and activate additional companies to engage in reporting on modern slavery.  An additional output will be the necessary tools and resources companies need to make informed decisions about modern slavery in their supply chains and improve transparency and regulatory compliance.

Get involved with GRI's work on modern slavery

GRI is inviting leading reporting companies to join a Corporate Leadership Group (CLG) on Modern Slavery to engage in cutting edge dialogue about the challenges and opportunities of transparency on this urgent sustainability issue in consultation with diverse stakeholders such as investors, media, human rights and legal experts and governments. The CLG will play a crucial role in understanding how to apply existing tools and frameworks on Modern Slavery and to identify best practices on challenging issues. If you are interested in taking the lead in tackling Modern Slavery with transparency, email Simone Warren at warren@globalreporting.org.

If you want to know more about GRI’s work on modern slavery, please contact Juliette Gaussem, Senior Manager Guidance & Practice: gaussem@globalreporting.org.