The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) acknowledges the passage of the Modern Slavery Bill 2018 through the Federal Parliament yesterday. The new legislation introduces a mandatory reporting requirement for large businesses and organisations, among other means designed to tackle modern day slavery.
According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, modern slavery is estimated to affect 45.8 million people across the world. Under the new laws, businesses exceeding $100 million in annual turnover will be required to investigate their supply chains and report on their activities to stamp out instances of modern slavery.
The ARA expects the first modern slavery reports to be completed by the end of the 2019/2020 financial year.
Russell Zimmerman, Executive Director of the ARA, said many retailers have already employed ethical sourcing programs and are passionate about eliminating modern slavery from their supply chains.
“These new laws will introduce a collective approach to address instances of modern slavery, which will make it far easier for individual organisations to make a bigger impact through their supply chains,” Mr Zimmerman said.
“We believe a competitive, market-based approach to investigating and stopping modern slavery will produce results by encouraging a ‘race-to-the-top’ mentality amongst retailers.”
The ARA undertook comprehensive consultations with major retailers, submitted to three separate inquiries, and engaged directly with the Federal Government to ensure that the new requirements were flexible and practical for retailers.
“We have been extensively involved in the development of the new laws over the last 18 months and the ARA continues to be the only retail organisation advocating for a pragmatic approach on behalf of the industry,” Mr Zimmerman said.
“The complex and interconnected nature of many supply chains can cause major headaches for retailers when trying to eliminate unethical practices and potentially also when complying with modern slavery reporting.”
Mr Zimmerman said that previous calls for strict penalties and the introduction of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner went too far, and that the new laws strike the right balance.
“The ARA will continue to represent retailers when the development of regulations and guidelines begins in-earnest over the next few months, to ensure that pragmatism prevails,” Mr Zimmerman said.