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7 Mar 2016

Lindsay Fortado, Financial Times

Lacklustre compliance on anti-slavery law

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When the UK’s Modern Slavery Act came into force last year, politicians hailed the new law as precedent-setting. It was the first national bill in the world that would require companies with turnover of more than £36m that operate in Britain to publish the steps they were taking to eradicate the crime from their supply chain. But since it has been implemented, the initial company statements have been lacklustre. Only 22 of 75 of the statements to comply with the law fulfilled the requirements to be both signed by a director and available on the company’s homepage, according to campaign groups. EE, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, EMC, Imperial Tobacco, and Jigsaw are among the companies that have failed to do one of the two requirements, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and CORE Coalition found in their research. Even fewer companies — only nine — met the minimum requirements on the areas of information that should be included in the statements, such as company policies and due diligence. “While the companies that have published reports under the act are to be commended as early movers, it’s clear that there is widespread misunderstanding among business about what’s required,” said Marilyn Croser, the director of CORE Coalition...Critics of the Modern Slavery Act say that, while it brings attention to the crime and its prevalence, there are no monetary or criminal penalties for companies that do not comply with the supply chain legal reporting requirement. When the act was still being debated, members of the House of Lords tried to require a government depository for the statements as part of the legislation, but the idea was defeated. The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has created a central registry where it is assembling all of the statements required by the act that they can find through web searches. Whether the early compliance reports are indicative of future ones remains to be seen. More than 12,000 companies globally are estimated to be required to comply so a pool of 75 reports is far from the full picture. The campaign groups say that, if the level of reporting remains inadequate, the government should enforce better compliance. There was a bright spot: two of the largest companies that have put out statements, Ford and Intel, had some of the most detailed assessments, the groups found.