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By Esther Le Roux, school pupil

The Modern Slavery Act of 2015 is in place to confront the issues of Modern slavery that takes place across the UK and globally. Section 54 (transparency in supply chains), of the Act compels companies that supply goods or services in the UK and also has an annual turnover of 36 million pounds or more, to publish a statement on their websites. It must state how they are taking steps to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in their supply chains or that their company hasn’t taken such steps.

The company director (or equivalent) depending on the type of organization must sign each statement, and the statement must have a link on the homepage. These regulations are clearly set out by the government and appear straightforward for each company to carry out. However, when investigating whether companies across West Sussex with a turnover of >£36 million, have met their transparency in the supply chain obligations – out of 20 companies that I researched , not one of the 20 companies had a statement with both a link on their homepage and the statement signed by the director. This raises the question- are companies really taking the issue of slavery within supply chains, as seriously they should?

It is an issue that is important and very relevant in today’s society. With increasing awareness of problems surrounding slavery in the modern day, there is a growing need for corporations, like large high street and online companies to promote and confront slavery to help reduce the use slavery across the globe for our everyday life products. In spite of this need, 60% of the modern slavery statements from companies that we investigated could not be found and 75% of companies statements are not signed by a named person, which is significantly higher than just the 25% Ergon had researched ( https://business-humanrights.org/en/modern-slavery-statements-ergon-report-analyses-who-is-reporting-and-what-companies-say-they-are-doing) . This highlights that there may be more of a disregard by companies of the Modern Slavery Act’s purpose and importance than previously believed.

How can we expect anyone buying high street or day to day items to try to take steps to ensure that they are reducing their contribution to purchasing slavery merchandise when large companies are not taking the correct steps to inform us about slavery in their supply chain. Surely companies with 36million pounds annual turnover, have some influence or power over the public? Without these companies leading they do by example we cannot expect the general public to assist in the fight against modern slavery.