Stamping out modern slavery will give ethical business an edge

by Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand

New laws to eradicate modern slavery will give ethical businesses a competitive edge, says the chief executive officer of Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand.

The Australian Government’s Modern Slavery Bill 2018, now before Parliament, will require more than 3,000 large companies to publish annual statements on their actions to address modern slavery in their supply chains and operations.

“For more than three decades, Fairtrade has worked closely with businesses committed to supply chain transparency. Finally, the world is catching up,” says Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand’s CEO, Molly Harriss Olson.

"We currently have 155 businesses in Australia that are tackling poverty, gender inequality and climate change by making trade fair. These businesses are way ahead of the curve.

“This new Modern Slavery Act will demand more accountability from our largest companies, transform our supply chains and ensure everyone shares in the benefits of prosperity.”

The Global Slavery Index estimates that 45.8 million people in 167 countries are in some form of modern slavery – whether forced labour, debt bondage or exploitative work.

Releasing the draft bill today, Assistant Minister for Home Affairs Alex Hawke said the requirements will “foster a ‘race to the top’ culture that will ensure Australia is a regional and world leader”.

Ms Harriss Olson agrees, emphasising the benefits to business.

“Brands that embed ethical business practices into their supply chains are growing faster than other brands the world over. This legislation is another opportunity for Australian businesses to step up and reap the rewards.”

Ms Harriss Olson also applauds the Australian Government’s commitment to publish its own annual statement on possible modern slavery risks in Commonwealth procurement.

“Fairtrade’s goal is to generate more than one million tonnes of Fairtrade products throughout our region by 2030. This legislation will help to address market failure and put us one step closer to achieving this goal.”