ACCSR submission to Modern Slavery Act Inquiry
Will Australia act on the problem of modern slavery in supply chains?
The Australian Parliament, through the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, is inquiring in 2017 into whether Australia should have a Modern Slavery Act.
The launch of the Inquiry follows a raft of global legislative developments in this area, including the introduction of a Modern Slavery Act in the UK in 2015. A major component of the UK Act is its transparency in supply chains provision. The provision obliges commercial organisations with an annual turnover greater than £36m to prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement that confirms it has taken steps to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its supply chains, or that it has taken no such steps.
Business attention to human rights is an issue that ACCSR has tracked for the past nine years through our Annual Review of the State of CSR in Australia and New Zealand. Utilising this knowledge, we published a 2015 report in partnership Australian Human Rights Commission and the Global Compact Network Australia entitled Human Rights in Supply Chains: Promoting Positive Practice.
Download a copy here.
A key finding from the Human Rights in Supply Chains report was that businesses in Australia lack clear strategies and processes to trace, monitor and address human rights risks in their supply chains.
This problem was the focus of our submission to the Inquiry, which contended that an understanding of modern slavery as a management practice, is necessary to develop legislative mechanisms that will effectively regulate supply chains. Our submission interrogated international best practice to assess how regulatory requirements can achieve a form of transparency with substantive value.
ACCSR recommended that the Australian government introduce a Modern Slavery Act containing a transparency in supply chains provisions, and, in doing so, that the Australian government:
- Require organisations to implement mandatory due diligence and reporting processes around human rights generally or modern slavery in particular, to compel organisations to take the action that will achieve fundamental change
- Utilise the GRI Standards Reporting Principles to define report quality, to encourage the presentation of information in a way that is representative and comparable
- Formulate criteria for reporting, to ensure that reporting is a substantive exercise
- Define the concept of the supply chain, to specify appropriate scope for due diligence
- Set a revenue threshold that encompasses medium-sized as well as large-sized companies, to capture the relevant actors
- Operate a publicly accessible registry of the reports produced and a list of the organisations to whom the transparency provision applies, to make the information accessible for interrogation by stakeholders
- Include mechanisms for monitoring and enforcement, such as financial penalties for non-compliances, and a ‘name and shame list’ to promote accountability
- Publish academic and industry-informed guidance, to promote report quality and organisational learning
Click here to read all submissions.