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Feisty talk on the Modern Slavery Act Project Futures Speaker Series Final Event – Melbourne Review

The third and final event in the PROJECT FUTURES three-city series ‘Human Rights in the Supply Chain: It’s Everybody’s Business’, couldn’t have been better timed.

Organised to support PROJECT FUTURES’ efforts to combat human trafficking and slavery, the speaker series was supported by ACCSR and Konica Minolta, and hosted by the Institute of Managers & Leaders.

In the two days before the event in Melbourne on Friday 18 August, the Government gave the first indications that legislation for a Modern Slavery Act could be sent for drafting  in early 2018, with a reporting threshold applying to companies with revenues above AUD $100 million.

The launch of the Attorney General’s Public Consultation Paper and Regulation Impact Statement, Modern Slavery in Supply Chains Reporting Requirement was followed 24 hours later by the Interim Report of the current Inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act (MSA), titled Modern slavery and global supply chains. The inquiry received  200 submissions and held seven public hearings. Interested stakeholders now have another chance to have their say through the public consultation period for Government’s proposed legislation.

ACCSR’s Managing Director, Dr Leeora Black, joined Konica Minolta’s Ethical Sourcing Lead, Laura McManus, and PROJECT FUTURES’ Partnership Manager, Renee Anschau, on the speaker panel, which was a first chance for many to hear about and discuss the implications of these two milestone documents.

Leeora Black highlighted the tendency for Australian businesses to ignore the ramifications of exploitative practices by overseas suppliers – until the public relations impacts reach our own shores. This situation might be avoided by introduction of legislated reporting requirements. . The panellists showed different aspects of the growing awareness of the risk of modern slavery in Australian supply chains. Laura McManus shared Konica Minolta’s progress on its sustainable supply chain road map and Renee Anschau described the impact of PROJECT FUTUTES work on the ground in Cambodia with the support of businesses such as Konica Minolta.

The three speakers noted that the proposed MSA shows a global shift in thinking about the boundaries of business responsibility. Regardless of their size or sector, Australian businesses must consider aligning their operations and strategies with global standards on corporate responsibility and human rights. Moreover, they must take active steps to protect human rights in their supply chains.

Questions from the audience focused on the challenges that business will face in building the capacity to undertake human rights due diligence, and reorienting the notion of corporate value around the dimensions of people and planet as well as profit.

Some clear next steps emerged from the session.

The panellists encouraged organisations to take practical action to review their supply chains and leverage meaningful third-sector partnerships.

Until 20 October, there is also an opportunity to contribute to the development of the MSA system through a public consultation on the proposed model being run by the Attorney-General’s Department. We encourage the business community, civil society, and interested stakeholders to participate.

ACCSR is optimistic that the Joint Standing Committee’s final report will be published by the last parliamentary sitting period for 2017, which runs from 27 November – 7 December. The Government appears to have momentum and bipartisan support on the human rights in business agenda.  With that in mind, it should be essential now for all Australian organisations to consider their potential risk and reporting requirements, and how they can build on their existing levels of capability.

Contact our team now if you wish to discuss how a modern slavery reporting requirement might affect your organisation.

Leeora Black addresses the Project Futures Speaker Series event in Melbourne.

 

Article by Isabella Moore, Consultant ACCSR

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