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Retailers 'must do more' to stamp out slavery

Retailers must go “much further” to stamp out slavery within their supply chains, the UK’s first anti-slavery commissioner has argued in Drapers this week. 

Under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which came into effect in October of that year, businesses with an annual turnover of £36m or more are required to publish annually a statement detailing all the steps taken to eradicate slavery.

However, Kevin Hyland, who was appointed as anti-slavery commissioner as part of the act, says that although the legislation has forced retail bosses to think about slavery, many are still failing to meet required standards.

“While there have been a number of good examples of modern slavery statements, the quality of statements, on the whole, has been weak,” Hyland told Drapers. “Many fail to meet the minimum requirements, such as sign-off from senior leadership and placement on the homepage of the website, let alone in-depth analysis of supply chain risks.”

Hyland urged retailers to speak more openly about the issue and says those who do find slavery within their supply chains should come forward: “I want companies to come forward and admit when they have found slavery in their supply chains and demonstrate what they are doing to fix it. Only then can we begin to find solutions and protect the most vulnerable workers from exploitation and abuse.

“A company should not be judged on whether it has identified slavery in their supply chain, but rather on how it responds.”

The ethical issues facing retailers hit the headlines last October, after BBC’s Panorama programme found Syrian refugee children employed in Turkish factories that were making clothes sold in the UK.

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