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Article

9 Mar 2021

Author:
Sam Sachdeva, Newsroom

New Zealand: NGOs & business leaders urge govt. to accelerate plans for modern slavery law

"Government urged to move fast on modern slavery law", 9 March 2021

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Kiwi companies with supply chain operations in Bangladesh or China, or who worked in the garment industry, were at higher risk when it came to modern slavery but every sector and company needed to be alert for potential wrongdoing.

New Zealand businessman and former Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe, who in 2018 warned the country’s international reputation was at risk if it did not act more strongly to tackle modern slavery practices in supply chains....

Given the challenges New Zealand businesses faced to address issues like climate change and sustainability, there was a risk of due diligence around modern slavery dropping down their list of priorities without government legislation.

Fyfe said ... “I've talked to many CEOs who have said to me, ‘Look, you know, this isn't an issue in our backyard, this is not an issue in our supply chains’, and, I look at them with some degree of surprise, because I don't believe many of those companies actually really know, because they haven't looked at it enough to actually be able to make that statement confidently.”

The Covid-19 pandemic, and the associated disruption for global supply chains, has created an added complication for businesses trying to tackle modern slavery.

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New Zealand had the potential to lead the world by combining three separate but related areas of concern - transparency in supply chains, modern slavery, and human rights due diligence - into one piece of legislation, she said.

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Any penalties in legislation would need to strike a balance between ensuring businesses felt comfortable to report and identify issues within their supply chains, and providing sufficient motivation for action due to the consequences.

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