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UK: Impact of Covid-19 on management of modern slavery in supply chains

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'Implications on Covid-19 for modern slavery challenges in supply chain management', July 2021

"This report shares the results of an empirical study of 489 UK-based practitioners that examines if, and how, the new Covid-19 business landscape affects commitments to tackle modern slavery in corporate supply chains. In response to the pandemic, waves of lockdowns and restrictions around the world stopped demand for some industries, whilst simultaneously, in other industries, huge surges for particular products and services exceeded supply capacity. As firms and national governments scrambled to source scarce materials, the scale and severity of the unprecedented disruption has had debilitating ripple effects on workers in supply chains.

Complex global supply chains are designed for efficiency, typically characterised by single sourcing with low-cost, geographically distant suppliers operating beyond tier one . In the midst of the pandemic, whilst firms sought supply chain visibility to secure continuity of supply, the UK Government relaxed firms’ obligations to publish Transparency in Supply Chains (TiSC) statements , as mandated under Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Although official guidelines stress the importance of continuing modern slavery risk assessments, the temporary easing of regulatory requirements can signal lower government prioritisation, and/or reallocation of internal resources. Deprioritisation can create conditions that increase the risk of modern slavery occurring in a firm’s supply chains..."