To date, the UK experience is that there have been varying responses from commercial organisations to the UK reporting requirement. Although some organisations have been able to demonstrate that they have taken concrete steps towards tackling the risk of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, others have only just begun to develop their awareness of the issues and are on a steep learning curve.
Given the Australian Government’s announcement and support for an Australian Modern Slavery Act, it makes sense for larger Australian businesses to assume an Australian Modern Slavery Act will likely be enacted in the near future and consider how they will prepare for the introduction of a reporting requirement that is likely to be similar in many respects to the UK requirement.
Bearing in mind the current proposed minimum reporting criteria, this approach ought to include consideration of at least the following steps:
- Mapping the organisation’s structure, businesses and supply chains.
- Formulating policies in relation to modern slavery – this will involve collating current policies, identifying gaps, adapting existing policies and formulating new policies, as needed.
- Carrying out a risk assessment – identifying those parts of the business operations and supply chains where there is a risk of modern slavery taking place.
- Assessing and managing identified risks – this may include carrying out further due diligence in the entity’s operations and supply chains and reviewing and adapting contract terms and codes of conduct with suppliers.
- Considering and establishing processes and KPIs to monitor the effectiveness of the steps taken to ensure that modern slavery is not taking place in the business or supply chains.
- Carrying out remedial steps where modern slavery is identified.
- Developing training for staff on modern slavery risks and impacts.
Businesses should bear in mind that apart from the introduction of new government regulation, there are many other good reasons for taking these steps, particularly at a time when businesses are facing renewed public pressure to operate sustainably and ethically.
By undertaking these steps, businesses will be well placed to respond effectively to new regulations and show that they are committed to eradicating modern slavery, in Australia and overseas, and taking concrete steps to achieve that objective.
Norton Rose Fulbright is a global law firm, with offices in more than 50 cities worldwide, including cities across Europe, the USA, Canada, Latin America, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Central Asia. We have experience in Australia and globally assisting clients with modern slavery risk management and reporting, as well as broader business and human rights advice. We made a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade’s Inquiry into a Modern Slavery Act (No. 72), provided regular pro bono assistance to the Committee and participated in the public hearing held in Sydney on 23 June 2017. Click here to download our paper. We also have been actively participating in the Attorney-General’s Department national consultation process to refine the Government’s proposed Modern Slavery in Supply Chains Reporting model.
For more information, contact Abigail McGregor, JP Wood or Greg Vickery to discuss how modern slavery legislation may impact on your business and ways to manage your supply chain risks.