Procurement’s Modern Slavery obligations

August 2022

There are approximately 40 million modern slavery victims worldwide. So why is this relevant to procurement and supply chain professionals? ArcBlue’s Social & Sustainable Procurement Lead, Emily Synnott, explains why it’s crucial that procurement professionals understand their obligations around Modern Slavery.


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My name is Emily Synnott, and I’m the Social & Sustainable Procurement Lead for ArcBlue. Lots of organisations have heard about Modern Slavery and know they need to do something about it but don’t know where to start.

Modern Slavery is about freedom. Something most of us take for granted. It’s where offenders use threats, coercion or deception to exploit victims and undermine their freedom.

These situations include human trafficking slavery, servitude, forced marriage, forced labour, debt bondage and the worst forms of child labour. There are approximately 40 million victims of Modern Slavery worldwide.

Although there are definitely high-risk countries, Australia and New Zealand are not immune to modern slavery and there have been many examples of worker exploitation where significant harm has been caused.

The problem with identifying Modern Slavery is it is often hidden in our supply chains and this is why procurement professionals have a critical role in ending these global practices of exploitation.

Thankfully, the modern slavery legislation landscape is rapidly changing worldwide, governments and organisations are taking actions to eradicate modern slavery. In Australia, the Commonwealth Government’s Modern Slavery Act came into force on in January 2019.

It requires reporting entities to prepare annual statements describing actions taken to assess and address modern slavery risks in their operations and supply chains.

Over 4,000 of these statements have been published on the Government’s online register  already. The New Zealand Government has also proposed modern slavery legislation which could apply to all New Zealand organisations.

More than 25 million people are estimated to be exploited in global supply chains worldwide.  It is particularly prevalent in certain countries and regions, and also in: Agriculture, Domestic work, Construction, and Manufacturing, these are all considered high risk industries

It’s also really prevalent in certain products such as: ICT hardware Garments Fish Cocoa, and Sugarcane.

ArcBlue has supported a range of clients in the past three years with this though: modern slavery awareness training, supply chain risk assessments, and practical policies, tools, templates and resources

Some of the key trends we’ve noticed are: Organisations are passionate about removing modern slavery but don’t always know where to start.

Many organisations have not mapped their supply chains and do not have current and complete procurement data. This is really important to be able to undertake meaningful supply chain risk assessments.

You need good supplier relationship management and category management to support ongoing due diligence and compliance. If organisations within industries work together, they can have a really significant impact on eradicating modern slavery.

So, what can you do to help eradicate modern slavery?  Here are our top five tips:

  • Ensure your organisation’s purchasers know what modern slavery is.
  • Make sure you understand any compliance obligations.
  • Set clear expectations with your suppliers regarding ethical work practices.
  • Map your supply chains and identify modern slavery risks.
  • Practice ongoing due diligence across your supply chains.

If modern slavery is suspected or found in supply chains, it is vital that procurers take action. The focus must be on the people in harm’s way.

ArcBlue is at the forefront of social and sustainable procurement, and we have experts that can assist you to understand and address modern slavery risks in your supply chains.