Modern Slavery Statements
'Modern Slavery' is presented in policy and legislation as an extensive risk and challenge for contemporary society, and is part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
‘What are the requirements for companies to issue modern slavery statements under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act?’
To address the prevention of the risk of modern slavery and human trafficking in UK businesses, the country enacted legislation in 2015. The Modern Slavery Act includes a reporting clause under Section 54 Transparency in Supply Chains (TISC). This requires companies with an annual turnover of over £36 million operating in the UK to publish a Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement annually. The Government Guidance for MSA reporting states that:
“The slavery and human trafficking statement must set out what steps they have taken during the financial year to ensure that modern slavery is not taking place in their organisation or in their supply chains. Organisations will report in different ways depending on the size, type and activities of the business. Government guidance recommends reporting on six areas of activity:
1. Organisational structure and supply chains,
2. Organisational policies
3. Assessing and managing risk
4. Due Diligence
5. Performance Indicators
Organisations are encouraged to paint as detailed a picture as possible of the steps they have taken to address and remedy modern slavery, and the effectiveness of such steps. If an organisation has taken no such steps they must still publish a statement stating this to be the case."
(Transparency in Supply Chains etc. A practical guide: Home Office, 2017)
Three basic legal requirements are stipulated in the MSA for statements to be:
• approved by the board of directors or equivalent management body
• signed by a director (or equivalent)
• published on the company’s website with a link to the statement provided in a prominent place on that website’s homepage. If the organisation does not have a website, it must provide a copy of the statement to anyone who makes a written request for one within 30 days.
‘To what extent are companies complying?’
There is currently no official central registry of MSA statements and thus statistics provided by third parties cannot be fully relied upon.
According to the TISC report MSA Compliance Tracker, of the 18,936 UK organisations required to publish a statement only 10,135 have complied.
This substantiates the report by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) that in the first year since the enactment of the MSA, 25 out of the FTSE 100 companies still had not complied (2016); these companies had still not complied by December 2017 when they were written to by the then UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland
‘What do the statements look like for the sectors we are researching: cocoa and garments?’
In advance of our fieldwork in Ghana, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic and Myanmar, in 2018 the Clothes, Chocolate and Children Project undertook a small sample analysis of the content of 40 Modern Slavery statements from the following companies:
Adidas (Reebok UK)
Dr Oetker UK
Lindt Sprungli UK
Marks and Spencers
OP Chocolate Ltd South Wales owned by CEMOI (France)
United Biscuits (Pladis)
The report is available here: Small Sample Analysis of Modern Slavery Statements in Cocoa and Garment Sectors