We believe everyone, everywhere has the right to a life free from slavery. But right now, millions of children and adults are trapped in slavery in every single country in the world, including your own. Modern slavery is the severe exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain and describes a situation where offenders use coercion, threats, or deception to exploit victims and undermine their freedom (Australian Department of Home Affairs, 2021).
Modern slavery takes many forms. The most common are:
- Human trafficking. The use of violence, threats or coercion to transport, recruit or harbour people in order to exploit them for purposes such as forced prostitution, labour, criminality, marriage or organ removal.
- Forced labour. Any work or services people are forced to do against their will under threat of punishment.
- Debt bondage/bonded labour. The world’s most widespread form of slavery. People trapped in poverty borrow money and are then forced to work to pay off the debt, losing control over both their employment conditions and the debt.
- Descent–based slavery. The most traditional form of slavery, where people are treated as property, and their “slave” status is passed down the maternal line.
- Child slavery. When a child is exploited for someone else’s gain and can include child trafficking, child soldiers, child marriage and child domestic slavery.
- Forced and early marriage. When someone is married against their will and cannot leave. Most child marriages can be considered slavery.
Why does modern slavery happen?
People end up trapped in modern slavery because they are vulnerable to being tricked, trapped, and exploited, often because of poverty and exclusion. It is these external circumstances that push people into taking risky decisions in search of opportunities to provide for their families or are simply pushed into jobs in exploitative conditions.
Other reasons for modern slavery are:
- loss of income or fear of loss of income
- low awareness of workplace rights
- requirements to work excessive overtime to cover capacity gaps
- increased demand due to supply chain shortages or
- the inability to safely return to home countries.
Factory shutdowns, workforce reductions and sudden changes to supply chain structures can disproportionately affect some workers and increase their exposure to modern slavery and other forms of exploitation.
Many Australian businesses may be unaware of the risk of exposure to modern slavery in their business or supply chains. Statistically, the incidence of modern slavery within Australia appears to be relatively low, but it is likely that the statistics reflect a low level of awareness of the issues, and the actual incidence may be much higher, both domestically and overseas.
As of 2018, the Global Slavery Index estimated:
- More than 40 million people globally are subject to some form of modern slavery and collectively approximately US$150 billion per year is generated in the global private economy from forced labour alone.
- 24,990,000 people in the Asia-Pacific region are ‘enslaved’ (62 per cent of all people enslaved); and
- 15,000 people in Australia are enslaved and on any given day in 2016, there were 15,000 living in conditions of modern slavery in Australia, a prevalence of 0.6 victims of modern slavery for every thousand people in the country (https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/, 2021).
How is Modern Slavery Relevant to Australian Businesses?
Australian businesses contribute to modern slavery both through global trade flows and through business operations on local shores, which can present legal and reputational risks in the future. The use of modern slavery also distorts global markets by often undercutting responsible businesses that offer goods and services in an ethical manner. With many imported products into Australia likely to have some associated exposure risk to modern slavery, we all have a clear and immediate responsibility to take action to prevent it.
What is Mun doing to fight modern slavery?
Mun has submitted a voluntary Modern Slavery statement to the Australian Border Force registry outlining its commitment to the constant review and remedy of modern slavery risks within its operations and supply chain.
Mun is continuing its roll out of Service Level Agreements (SLA) which contain clauses requiring suppliers to abide by local labour laws and not engage in activities within their operations that would violate human rights such as forced or child labour.
Overseas suppliers must provide proof of meeting SLA requirements as part of our due diligence.
Internal training is provided to all employees to educate and create awareness of what modern slavery is, its global impacts, and ways to identify practices within its customer and supplier base that may present a risk.
Mun’s main supplier of glove products is Hartalega Holdings. Hartalega is a member of SEDEX who provides guidance and tools in ethical sourcing and building responsible supply chains. Hartalega also has a Code of Conduct with its suppliers which outlines the prohibition of using child, trafficked, and forced labour.
Modern slavery is a complex issue with multiple drivers and cannot be solved easily. All organisations, and specific businesses, have a responsibility to demonstrate that they are contributing to the solution through ongoing due diligence, reporting, and taking appropriate actions.
It is important for businesses to communicate an honest and transparent view of their operations and supply chains, and to recognise that commitment, collaboration, and open communication with all stakeholders are essential.