A Clarion Call for Change

By Zunaira Khan

Do you support modern slavery? This is not a difficult question, one which most companies and individuals would answer with a resounding no. It is far more difficult to deny that modern slavery is happening all over the world. Almost 46 million people around the world are living in some form of modern slavery.

However, there are positive steps being taken to eradicate this scourge once and for all. One such step is the Bali Process Government and Business Forum, set to take place at the end of the week in Perth, Australia.

Invited guests include government representatives and prominent business leaders from the 45 Bali Process member countries, and representatives from UN organizations. This varied group of influencers from around the world will be attending to hold discussions, share their initiatives, and learn from each other.

Fighting modern slavery will require unity and collaboration, themes central to the Bali Process. The aim is not to place blame or punish companies that are willing to examine their supply chains, rather, those attending the forum hope to encourage companies to start seriously looking for signs of slave labour.

Adidas is a wonderful example of a company that adopted an entirely new position dedicated to fighting slavery.

In 2016, Adidas topped a list of global clothing and footwear corporations rated on their initiatives to eradicate forced labour from their supply chains. The benchmark was created by Know the Chain, a resource for businesses and investors who want to better understand and address labour abuses in their supply networks. The ranking was based on the efforts in six important areas: commitment and governance, traceability and risk assessment, purchasing practices, recruitment, worker voice, monitoring and remediation.

Adidas is tackling the issue in various ways such as collaborating with other companies, NGOs and governments, and training suppliers on the risks of bonded labour and the impact of recruitment fees on workers. It also initiated “worker hotlines” which allow workers in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Cambodia to make anonymous inquiries, offer suggestions or voice their concerns via text or apps.

Another of Adidas’ positive initiatives is the training it provides suppliers on forced labour. Adidas works closely with its primary suppliers to reach the deepest tiers of its supply chain. Adidas along with Thai Union, JD.com, and Walmart, is speaking at the first event of the Bali Process Government and Business Forum at the PerthUSAsia Centre. These companies have been at the forefront of demonstrating their commitment to achieve transparency within their supply chains.

The world is waking up to the idea that we cannot eradicate modern slavery in isolation. Government leaders, along with business leaders, must come together in solidarity and cooperation. The enthusiasm with which businesses and governments have signed up to the Bali Process is a clarion call for change; it is a testament to their conviction and it is hope for the 46 million people enslaved around the world.