Combatting modern slavery in property and construction

The Australian Human Rights Commission and KPMG Banarra are today launching their first of five sector specific guides to help Australian businesses understand and manage their modern slavery risks.

Property, Construction and Modern Slavery: Practical responses to managing risks to people, is a practical guide to help this industry respond effectively to the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth). The Act requires certain large companies to report annually on their efforts to address risks of modern slavery in their global operations and supply chains.

“The guide is part of a two-year collaboration between the Commission and KPMG which aims to support business to respond meaningfully to the modern slavery risks prevalent in their industry,” said Commission President, Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher.

“Effective management of modern slavery risks involves placing ‘risks to people’ at the heart of your response,” said Professor Croucher.

“The guide explores a range of modern slavery risk areas that arise in the property and construction sector including in relation to raw material supply chains and construction labour, as well as other often overlooked risk areas such as building maintenance services and corporate promotional products,” said Richard Boele, Partner, Human Rights and Social Impact at KPMG.

“The construction sector in particular is predicted to continue to grow despite the impacts of Covid-19. It is important this sector recognises key risk areas for modern slavery practices and considers the ways Covid-19 is exacerbating these risks in supply chains overseas and in Australia,” said Mr Boele.

The guide showcases examples of current practice from the sector in response to modern slavery from Australian companies.

“Taking a rights-based approach to addressing modern slavery will assist your business to meet the increasing expectations of investors, governments, clients, consumers, business peers and civil society around business respect for human rights,” said President Croucher.

According to the Global Slavery Index more than 40 million people are living in modern slavery conditions globally, with up to 15,000 victims living in Australia. Modern slavery refers to a range of serious human rights violations, which are also crimes in Australia. They include trafficking in persons, slavery, servitude, forced marriage, forced labour, debt bondage, the worst forms of child labour, and deceptive recruiting for labour or services.

The guide is relevant not only to businesses in the property and construction sector required to report under the Modern Slavery Act but also to their suppliers and investors with assets the property and construction sector.

Guidance for a range of other industries, including the health, food and beverage and finance sector are currently in development and will be released in coming months.

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