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Press release: UK’s flagship anti-slavery law failing to drive change in big business

London, UK – 7/10 of the FTSE 100 are not reporting sufficient measures to tackle slavery under the UK Modern Slavery Act, a new Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (The Centre) report finds. 

The Centre has tracked anti-slavery efforts of FTSE 100 companies since the Modern Slavery Act came into force three years ago. In this third annual assessment, all FTSE 100 companies required to report have done so, but the steps most companies report taking are weak. They amount to a paper commitment rather than the concrete action needed to end modern slavery. 

The Act asks companies to report on their anti-slavery risk assessments, due diligence, training and policies. Yet a majority of companies (73 out of 100, or more than 7/10) scored below 40% when assessed against these areas. FTSE 100 companies with the lowest scores include GVC Holdings, Ferguson and Rightmove, all with six per cent. Many with the worst scores were also in the bottom 20% last year, including Paddy Power Betfair, at 8%. In contrast a small leadership group of M&S, Diageo, Morrisons and Sainsburys have shown year on year improvements in their efforts to rid their supply chains of slavery.   

“At three years old, the Modern Slavery Act has certainly increased the amount of information available on what companies are doing to eradicate slavery in their supply chains. However, this has only served to highlight that the vast majority of companies’ reported efforts are wholly inadequate. The small group of leaders we have identified won’t compensate for the inaction of the many. It’s time for the Government to toughen its requirements on business – victims of slavery cannot wait.” said Phil Bloomer, Executive Director of Business & Rights Resource Centre  

The Centre’s assessment found that five FTSE 100 companies did not meet even the minimum requirements set by the UK government on how to report. Statements should be signed by a director, approved by the board and available on the company’s homepage. However, this is a marked improvement on 2017, when 43 companies failed to meet the minimum requirements.   

After the Centre’s 2017 report, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Rathbone Investment Management and CCLA Investment Management engaged with non-compliant and poor performing companies to improve their efforts.  

Wider company reporting 

The failures of the UK’s largest companies to take decisive action, are only amplified further in the large companies outside the FTSE 100. The Centre’s Modern Slavery Registry collects statements released by the estimated 17,000 companies required to report under the Act. The Registry holds statements from 6,000 companies, the other 50% are believed to have not reported. Just 19% of these statements meet the minimum requirements set out by the Act.  

In July, the UK Home Office announced an independent review of the Modern Slavery Act with an interim report due at the end of November 2018.  

Baroness Young of Hornsey OBE said “This is the moment for the Government to take stock of the impact of the Modern Slavery Act on business. The evidence in this report is clear; too many companies are flouting the Act allowing slavery to thrive in supply chains. The Government needs to step up its demand on big business and follow through by enforcing the law. Not doing so will cause more suffering for vulnerable workers worldwide.”  

The Centre is calling on the UK Government to strengthen the law to make it mandatory for companies to identify and a mitigate their slavery risks through due diligence (a similar law has been passed in France), and to monitor and enforce compliance with current and future anti-slavery laws. 

 

ENDS 

 

Media Contact 

Adam Barnett, Communications Officer, [email protected], +44 (0)7753 975769, +44 (0)20 7636 7774   

Notes to editor  

Modern slavery encompasses the most severe forms of labour exploitation and it is on the rise globally. The International Labour Organization estimates that forced labour in the private economy generates US$150 billion in illegal profits per year. The Global Slavery Index findings show that even in developed economies like the UK, France and Germany, there are hundreds of thousands of people living in conditions of modern slavery. Yet the prevalence of modern slavery, both in terms of where it is practiced and where victims come from, is concentrated in the global south.  

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre is an international NGO that tracks the human rights impacts (positive & negative) of over 8000 companies in over 180 countries making information available on its eight language website. We seek responses from companies when concerns are raised by civil society. The response rate is over 75% globally. https://www.business-humanrights.org/   

The Modern Slavery Registry is operated by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. The Registry is a free and independent resource and holds over 7000 statements. Investors use it to assess company risks, and consumers and activists can use it to reward leading companies and press laggards to take action. Companies also use it to learn from their peers. https://www.modernslaveryregistry.org/