#Sedex18: Tackling modern slavery in the food industry
On March 13th – 14th, the 2018 Sedex Member’s Conference took place in London. With over 650 delegates in attendance, the event welcomed Responsible Sourcing Managers, CSR Representatives, Technical Directors and Product Technologists from a wide range of businesses, including food retailers, department stores and media companies among many others.
A not-for-profit organisation, Sedex is dedicated to driving ethical and responsible business practices in global supply chains. This year’s conference saw representatives from a vast range of sectors learn how to take their businesses ‘beyond compliance’ in tackling some of the most pressing social and environmental supply chain issues worldwide, including Modern Day Slavery, plastic waste and food fraud.
“Every industry, every community, every corner”
With Sedex reporting that Modern Day Slavery is harming “every industry, in every community, in every corner of the world”, the opening address included several devastating statistics that brought this particular issue to centre stage:
- An estimated 45.8 million people are living in Modern Slavery today
- There are an estimated 13,000 potential slavery victims in the UK
- There has been a 17% increase in slavery cases in the UK since 2015
- 18% of forced labour victims in the UK are children
“Happening under our eyes”
Although the majority of Modern Slavery cases take place in only 5 countries (India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan), keynote speaker Werner Ten Kate, the Dutch National Prosecutor for Human Trafficking, discussed a series of recent labour exploitation cases in grocery supply chains & launderettes in the Netherlands, bringing home the fact that slavery is much closer to home than many people realise, but raising the question: “Are you able to see it?”
Werner Ten Kate went on to point out that fighting Modern Slavery is not only the work of police and prosecution bodies, but a collaborative effort that must span every layer of business.
Since its inception 14 years ago, Sedex has worked to raise awareness and target solutions to combat Modern Slavery by tracking supplier activity from end-to-end, flagging political indicators and environmental issues and providing aggregated data that will enable businesses to enhance their ethical standing as well as ensure regulatory compliance, stating:
“Supply chain visibility is no simple matter. The multi-tiered complexity of modern businesses makes it difficult for organisations even to be aware of risks they may be facing, never mind map and manage them.
It gets harder and harder to see through layer upon layer of the supply chain, all the way to the people that matter, maybe working hunched over crops, thousands of feet up in remote rural areas, miles from any high street client.”
“Triple Bottom Line”
In his opening speech, Sedex CEO Jonathan Ivelaw-Chapman urged businesses to structure their approach to fighting Modern Day Slavery by applying the ‘Triple Bottom Line’ framework, looking not only at financial results but also social and environmental outcomes to evaluate their company’s overall performance.
He went on to identify the practical ways in which companies can make a difference to Modern Slavery statistics by going above and beyond industry standards:
- Awareness raising
- Self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ)
- Risk assessment
- Validated SAQ/Onsite risk management
- Joint remediation
- Training and capability building
- Reporting insights and alignment
- Continuous improvement
- Making sustainability ‘business as usual’
Line of sight “critical”
The resounding takeaway message from the event was clear: fighting slavery is a shared mission, with collaboration and transparency highlighted as the initial steps that will ultimately lead to progress.
Although there should be recognition for the successful work that is being done, combatting the issue can be described as ‘a sprint, rather than a marathon’, but by creating visibility of our supply chains, the actions required to prevent and eradicate illicit labour practices can be implemented comprehensively.
Authenticate is proud to be an official technology partner of Sedex, offering access to a live API feed displaying the active Sedex membership status of all suppliers within any mapped supply chain. By joining Authenticate, not only are food companies able to view their direct suppliers’ membership of Sedex, they will also have visibility of the membership of the suppliers further down the chain.
Upon the announcement of the partnership last year, Jonathan Ivelaw-Chapman stated: “Our link with Authenticate IS, is a crucial step in our drive towards collaboration and improvement in ethical trading, through the provision of greater transparency of both immediate and non-direct suppliers. With the addition of the Sedex audit and Authenticate certification service, members can be confident that they have the complete compliance and assurance solution they need.”
Find out more:
Read about how Authenticate is helping to eradicate Modern Slavery in tomato supply chains.