Over and above the law and any other business case, we have a moral obligation not to be complicit in any form of slavery as well as a societal expectation on us. It’s part of our values to do the right thing and to act ethically and with integrity and to care about our communities. As a large corporation with a foothold in more than 55 countries worldwide, we have a responsibility to use our leverage and bring our good name wherever possible to ensure that our own employees and the workers in our value chain are not victims of slavery; whether it’s human trafficking or forced and bonded labour.
As a panellist at the recent conference by the Innovation Forum on how businesses can tackle slavery and forced labour, I and others from a range of sectors and sustainability professionals shared how we are addressing the issue. Indeed, a recurring theme throughout the day was the need to collaborate within and across sectors to be able to have meaningful impact on this issue; it is not an issue any company can solve singlehandedly.
The key message I wanted to convey is that our company welcomes new UK government legislation on this. We firmly believe it provides an opportunity to elevate practice in the business community and to eradicate from society this most egregious practice.
The Company has set up a high level panel with cross business unit and cross functional representation into a Modern Slavery Working Group. It is tasked with driving this issue and producing a slavery and human trafficking statement that reflects the significant work we have been doing for the Board to sign off. The group was convened in November 2015 and has scheduled meetings every two weeks, which is testament to how highly this issue has been prioritised by our senior leadership team. We are also liaising closely with reputable organisations such as Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) to ensure we are considering wider stakeholder expectation on how we address modern slavery as a business.
We will publish and communicate a credible and ambitious slavery and human trafficking statement, which will articulate our baseline and our plans for making progress, well ahead of our legislative deadline.