Press release: FTSE 100 failing to lead on eliminating modern slavery from supply chains ?

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London, 17 October 2017:  Marks & Spencers, Sainsbury’s and Unilever are among a handful of FTSE 100 companies taking meaningful action to eradicate slavery from their supply chains, according to a new report from Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC).

While these leading companies are incorporating modern slavery into risk assessments, staff training and sourcing decisions, few businesses have taken the action the Modern Slavery Act is designed to encourage. Indeed, 43 of the top 100 listed companies were assessed as having failed to meet even the minimum requirements of the Act. The worst-performing companies were Hargreaves Lansdown, Paddy Power, Pearson, and WorldPay.

Phil Bloomer, Executive Director for BHRRC said:

“It’s disappointing that after the first full year of reporting under the Act, so many of the FTSE 100 companies are still taking a ‘tick box’ approach. Those that are leading the way prove there has been enough time to act decisively to eliminate slavery from their operations and supply chains.”

The report, which builds on a similar one published last year, scores the companies on the extent of their disclosure under the 2015 Act and the level of action taken to eliminate slavery from their operations and supply chains. Companies are sorted into ten tiers (tier 10 the best performing, one the worst performing). Over half the companies appear in the bottom four tiers. One company, Randgold Resources Limited, has not yet produced a statement despite the suggested deadline passing.

No company reached the top tier but Marks & Spencer was the best performing company in tier nine, with Sainsbury’s and Unilever in tier eight, and British American Tobacco, Tesco and Vodafone in tier seven. These companies explained the risks identified in their supply chain, reviewed existing policies and practices, and collaborated with experts and peers to learn best practice.

In contrast, half of the companies surveyed provided no meaningful information on whether their actions were effective in addressing modern slavery risks, and the majority did not report on their complex supply chains - where risk of slavery is greatest.

Last year, BHRRC released FTSE 100 At the Starting Line, assessing the first 27 FTSE 100 company statements published under the Act. The analysis of this year’s statements - which looks at the full FTSE 100  - still reveals a wide gap between a few leading companies and the laggards that make up the majority.

Failure to take action on slavery is becoming ever-more risky for businesses. There were 51 new prosecutions under the Act in 2016, compared to only 12 in 2015. This year, Sports Direct came under fire when two brothers were found guilty of trafficking workers from Poland to work in a Sports Direct warehouse and were jailed for six years each. This came a year after the company dropped off the FTSE 100 following a scandal around poor working conditions.

“This issue is rightly a priority for the UK government, with investors taking note and other countries like Australia, France and the Netherlands introducing similar legislation. The FTSE 100 have the reach and influence to play a pivotal role in eradicating modern slavery, but the welcome leadership of a few will not compensate for the poor performance of the majority,”said Bloomer. 

 

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For more information, to receive an embargoed copy of the report, or to request an interview contact Tara Burke of di:ga communications on [email protected] or 07747 745675.

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • The full report will be available here at 00:01 BST on 17 October 2017
  • The minimum requirements of the Act are that a company produces a statement, which is signed by a director, available on the company's homepage and approved by the board. Only 53 of the FTSE 100 were assessed as having met these requirements.
  • Statements made by companies under the UK Modern Slavery Act can be found at BHRRC’s Modern Slavery Registry.