Modern Slavery: What are tech firms doing?

  • techUK techUK
    Tuesday20Nov 2018
    techUK Reports

    techUK hosted a workshop looking at how tech firms and others have responded to the risks of modern slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains.

Modern slavery is a very modern problem. The mass consumerism and demand for ever cheaper goods, particularly with the global middle class growing exponentially, has created a trend where businesses are under pressure to cut manufacturing prices and in some instances cut corners. This applies to tech products as much as anything else and tech firms have been taken huge strides in making sure their operations and supply chains are not contributing to modern slavery, with many seeking to look at ways to make a real difference in the communities they operate in.

Many members are advanced in this journey and techUK has been helping them understand and respond to this issue. For our report on the tech sector response to the Modern Slavery Act click here, for more information about the Tech Against Trafficking initiative click here and the Wilton Park report we did looking at how tech can combat modern slavery click here.

In this workshop, techUK members, representatives from Government and the construction sector shared their expertise. Key discussion points are listed below and a full write up with links, resources and discussion points from the event can be found by clicking the pink box at the bottom of this article.

  • Tech products are increasingly complex with hugely complex supply chains. Being able to understand what is happening throughout the whole supply chain is an expensive, complex and time-consuming task, but a necessary one.
  • Supplier oversight is key, but auditing and customer leverage reduces throughout the supply chain. Therefore, training up and expecting tier one suppliers (suppliers with a direct relationship) to conduct due diligence and auditing of their suppliers cascades best practice.
  • Tech is about collaboration and so is the response to modern slavery and trafficking. Rather than try to go it alone, businesses are more effective when working through collaborative fora like the Responsible Business Alliance.
  • Risk mapping and profiling is essential. Mapping where the most likely risks originate against company exposure to that market can help prioritise areas or suppliers in need of enhanced due diligence or oversight.
  • Business needs tailored solutions for different supplier countries. In the UK (and increasingly elsewhere) the legislation requires companies to do more, but in some areas like Asia, the requirements are not there and attempts to educate suppliers can rub against cultural norms, so an education and training approach may work better.
  • Clear KPIs make for better reporting. By having specific, measurable KPIs in modern slavery statements (compulsory for large UK firms), companies can measure if their risk assessments an mitigations are effective.

So what next?

The UK Modern Slavery Act is currently under review and a lot of attention focused on the evolving requirements and review, with members still seeking advice on KPIs and measurements. Given this need, techUK and the Home Office will look to run a session on reporting next year, as well as workshops on responsible mineral sourcing and implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. For more information on these please get in touch via the contact details below.

Modern slavery workshop meeting note (pdf)

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