New Procurement Policy Note (PPN 02/23) Highlights the Issue of Modern Slavery in Supply Chains

New Procurement Policy Note (PPN 02/23) Highlights the Issue of Modern Slavery in Supply Chains

Modern slavery is an insidious and often-hidden problem that affects millions of people worldwide, including those in global supply chains. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), over 40 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery — including forced labour, human trafficking, and child labour.

These practices are often found in industries that are part of global supply chains, such as construction, agriculture, manufacturing and mining. Modern slavery can also affect government supply chains, hence why a recent Procurement Policy Note (PPN 02/23: Tackling Modern Slavery in Government Supply Chains) provides updated guidance on how contracting authorities can identify and manage modern slavery risks in their supply chains.

What is Modern Slavery?

Modern slavery is defined as the exploitation of people for personal or commercial gain, often involving force, deception, or coercion. This exploitation can take many forms, including debt bondage, forced labour, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking.

In many cases, those affected by modern slavery are vulnerable people seeking employment and a better life, only to find themselves trapped in situations of exploitation. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), around 27.6 million people worldwide are in forced labour — 17.3 million of these individuals are in the private sector.

Why Does Modern Slavery Affect Global Supply Chains?

Many global supply chains are complex and involve multiple stages of production, with goods and services passing through many different countries and companies. This makes it challenging to track and regulate the conditions in which goods are produced and the treatment of workers.

Furthermore, many companies may not be aware of the risks of modern slavery in their supply chains or may turn a blind eye to cut costs and increase profits. This lack of transparency and accountability can create an environment where exploitation can thrive.

In the UK, businesses are taking steps to manage modern slavery risks. A study by CHAS and the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab found that 67% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are committed to tackling the issue of modem slavery, and 60% said they had implemented a modern slavery policy within six months of being interviewed.

What Does PPN 02/23 Mean for UK Businesses?

PPN 02/23 includes guidelines on how contracting authorities can detect and mitigate modern slavery risks in new and current contracts. Beginning 1 April 2023, businesses that wish to work on projects designated as “high risk” for modern slavery must provide information about their supply chains. However, the guidance also states that contracting authorities should manage modern slavery risks in a proportionate manner and not place unnecessary burdens that may deter suppliers, including SMEs and voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSEs).

Modern slavery is a significant problem affecting millions of people worldwide, including those who are part of global supply chains. Addressing this problem will require a coordinated effort from companies, governments, and consumers to promote transparency, accountability, and social responsibility in global supply chains. By addressing the risks of exploitation and promoting sustainable development, we can work towards a world in which all people are free from the scourge of modern slavery.

Author: Alex Minett

Alex Minett is the Head of Product & Markets at CHAS, the UK’s leading health and safety assessment scheme and provider of risk mitigation, compliance, and supply chain management services. With a working history in the audit and management consulting industry, Alex is experienced in implementing visions and strategies. Skilled in negotiation, management and business development, he is passionate about driving CHAS in its mission to safeguard organisations from risk in the UK.  

LinkedIn: Alex Minett

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