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How can you avoid dubious supply chains when you shop?

30th November 2020

The Clewer Initiative

By analysing data from the 2018 Global Slavery Index, Bolt Burdon Kemp was able to identify the six main types of products “most likely to have been made using modern slaves” and calculate the import value to the UK in 2019.

In particular, it believes the UK imported:

  • More than £7bn worth of clothes made in Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam
  • More than £6.1bn worth of computers and phones sourced from China and Malaysia
  • Around £660m worth of coffee and cocoa produced by 17 different countries including Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Brazil, Vietnam and Columbia

In his analysis, David McClenaghan, Head of the Abuse Team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, explains that it is incredibly difficult to avoid these supply chains: “Do you benefit from slave labour? Unless you live entirely off the grid, the answer is an unfortunate ‘yes’. Across every industry and in every country in the world, criminals are forcing people to work under inhumane conditions while cutting off any means for them to get help, be rescued or even take action themselves to escape.

“It exists in all stages of the supply chain. Modern slaves may be picking raw materials, producing and manufacturing goods, and shipping and delivering them to you. They may be providing services – such as that long-awaited manicure or car wash. Everything from your mobile phone, your trainers and the t-shirt on your back, to the coffee grains or tea bags that help you get through the day, could be tainted by the fact that modern slaves were exploited to produce them.”

Most key industries are impacted in one way or another. For example, almost 20 per cent of the world’s global cotton production is linked to forced labour in China – with the cotton being used to make the clothes we buy on the high-street. It can be tricky to know what is going on in a supply chain because they are very long, complex and difficult to oversee. Sadly only 29 per cent of companies in the UK know the details of their supply chains.

David outlines some of the mechanisms in place to scrutinise supply chains: “The Modern Slavery Registry, the Oxfam Supermarkets Scorecard and the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre all contribute to holding companies accountable for their business practices around modern slavery. It is expected that, in their modern slavery statements, companies mention any items in their supply chain that may be produced by modern slaves – and what steps they’ve taken to remove them from their supply chain.

“Companies that fail to mention problematic products automatically demonstrate a lack of transparency. Both Oxfam and the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre assess companies on their transparency and ability to keep human suffering out of their supply chains. They award companies a score out of 100% – with a higher score indicating better performance.”

If you want to show you care and use your purchasing power to make a stand, try to buy ethically sourced or survivor-made goods. For example, avoid buying goods from countries that are reported to have used slaves in order to produce them, look out for certifications such as the FAIRTRADE® label that show commitment to fair working conditions and buy products made by survivors of modern slavery.

The law firm lists eight specific ways in which you can ensure you are not helping to fund modern slavery. One of its suggestions is to download The Clewer Initiative’s Safe Car Wash App – it is great to see a representative from the legal profession identifying the Safe Car Wash App as a key solution to the problem of modern slavery in the UK today.

To read the article in full, click here

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