Modern slavery is alive in the UK and more needs to be done by businesses to combat it.
Many of us would like to think that slavery is a thing of the past. After all, it is nearly 240 years since it became illegal to own a slave in Scotland. A number of Scots prominently campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade. William Dickson from Moffat was Governor of Barbados. Following his return to Scotland he toured from Kirkcudbright to Nairn in 1792 trying to change attitudes towards the trade by showing how brutal it was. Glasgow was one of the most fervent anti-slavery centres in the UK.
Sadly slavery did not end there. The reality is that the trade in people to work in servitude continues to this day. The Scottish government launched an awareness campaign this summer to help Scots understand how close to home the problem is. Victims have been found in major cities like Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh but also in smaller settlements from Appin to Orkney. Latest figures show there were 150 potential victims of trafficking in Scotland in 2016, a 53% increase since 2013.
Businesses of all shapes and size have a vital part to play in putting a stop to this as we mark Anti-Slavery Day (18 Oct). The first step to improving the situation is acknowledging that the problem exists. Organisations need to have proper standards in place to minimise the risk of them stoking modern slavery, unintentionally or otherwise. They need to carry out proper risk assessments to test where threats of it encroaching into their business may occur and work with others to mitigate the risk. This is harder than it sounds, especially when you consider the full extent of a company’s operations including its supply chain, its suppliers and their own supply chain.
We look for companies with transparent processes to allow them to assess, manage and mitigate the risk of modern slavery.
We focus on areas where we can drive most change. Modern slavery is more of a challenge in the companies that we might invest in. We assess the risks and opportunities of each investment, as the supply chains of some companies pose a significant risk. Supply chains can be extremely complicated and stretch to all corners of the world. We look for companies with transparent processes to allow them to assess, manage and mitigate the risk of modern slavery.
As a company we have our own obligations and have robust processes in place for assessing our own suppliers. We want to work with companies that share our values and commitment to being a responsible business. We are a living wage employer and we uphold the ten UN Global Compact Principles, a framework to ensure our business is run according to decent values, amongst other measures.
The scourge of slavery never has gone away but is something that businesses big and small can help eradicate.