Slavery – Which companies score badly on modern slavery disclosure?

Some companies score really well when it comes to managing and reporting on the risks that their products may have been made or partly produced by slaves and some score really badly. The massive differences between the high and low scores on this index is perhaps the biggest surprise.

Australia’s Modern Slavery Act (2018) requires Australian companies with annual revenue of more than A$100 million, to report on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains and actions.

“There is a wide dispersion in terms of the disclosure quality of the Modern Slavery Statements 2020
submitted by S&P/ASX100 companies,” says a research report from Monash University’s Centre for Financial Studies.

“Companies with the best modern slavery disclosure scores are Woolworths, Fortescue Metals,
Wesfarmers, Westpac, and Ansell.

“Companies with weak disclosure scores include IDP Education, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, Cleanaway, Resmed and Nine Entertainment.”

What is modern slavery?

According to the Australian government, the definition of modern slavery is where “coercion, threats or deception are used to exploit victims and undermine or deprive them of their freedom.”

So modern slavery is more than mere substandard working conditions or underpayment of workers.

According to the to the one hundred top Australian companies contained in the Monash report:

“The most common specific modern slavery risks assessed and mentioned by the companies are forced labour, child labour and debt bondage.”

So the definition of Modern Slavery is much like stereotypical old-school slavery but perhaps without so many leg chains and whips: People are forced to work, children are forced into work and debts are held by ’employers’ to force people to work.

The Act provides eight types of exploitation that meet the definition of “modern slavery.”

These are:
• trafficking in persons;
• slavery;
• servitude;
• forced marriage;
• forced labour;
• debt bondage;
• deceptive recruiting for labour or services; and
• the worst forms of child labour which refers to ‘slavery practices’ or hazardous work involving children.


Where is modern slavery?

According to the Monash report, slavery exists not just in third-world countries although the imports of developed nations can contain products, services and elements that are produced by foreign slaves. $354 billion worth of products may have been produced with the labour of slaves and then exported to G20 countries, according to the Walkfree Foundation (2018).

How many slaves are there in Australia?

Yes there is slavery in Australia, now in modern times. The Monash University researchers say: “It is a problem that also is present within Australia with approximately 1,567 victims nationally.”

How many slaves are there in the world?

“Modern slavery is a global phenomenon with 40.3 million victims currently,” says Walkfree and the Monash report.

Australian companies that have very low scores for managing the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains have significantly lower scores than the rest. Most Australian companies score between 39 and 65 on the rating scale of 1-100.

The highest rated companies by Monash include Woolworths (85.01), Fortescue (84.96) and Wesfarmers (83.48).

The lowest rated companies include:

Cochlear (30.37) – well below the next lowest company which is REA Group on 39.91.

Nine Entertainment (22.69)

Resmed (21.81)

Cleanaway (19.60)

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare (14.74)

IDP Education (10.0)

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