What is Modern Slavery?

Modern slavery is the gross exploitation of human beings for profit.  It is an umbrella term that encompasses human trafficking, domestic servitude, forced marriage, the sale of children, organ harvesting, dangerous workplace conditions, sexual exploitation and bonded indebtedness.

Why Does Slavery Still Exist?

Slavery in some form or another has always existed within human civilisation.  Though formally outlawed in most countries by the mid-1800’s, it remains as complex and pervasive as ever as an imbedded part of our global economy.

Modern Slavery is an extreme form of inequality with root causes in political, religious, cultural, economic, and social discord.  It has also become a powerful market force driven by supply and demand.  Systemic poverty, discrimination, and restrictive migration regimes create supply pools of human beings vulnerable to exploitation. Consolidated corporate power (which limits a fair distribution of profits) and irresponsible outsourcing practices, combined with mass consumerism and an influx of low-priced “disposable” goods into the market create the demand.  Over the past 20 years, the sustained momentum of global leaders, NGO’s and human rights activists have finally exposed these abuses.  More recently, international legislation is compelling the participation of businesses and holding them accountable for identifying ways to disrupt the systems and practices that enable slavery’s continued proliferation.

How do Modern Slavery laws affect businesses?

Laws requiring businesses to disclose what they are doing to fight labour exploitation in their organisation and supply chain now exist or are soon to go into effect in the UK, the US, France, Australia, Brazil, Nepal, Switzerland and the Netherlands, among others.  Even businesses to which the laws do not directly apply are being effected, in the form of human rights risk audits, supplier codes of conduct, and increased pressure from NGOs, customers, investors and other stakeholder groups.