CCLA launches modern slavery benchmark

CCLA has launched the CCLA Modern Slavery Benchmark which assesses the largest UK companies on how they are taking steps to eradicate modern slavery.

The benchmark is a tool for investors to understand which companies are active in the fight against modern slavery and creates an assessment of corporate modern slavery performance and disclosures.

CCLA says that the UK annually imports $26.1 billion of products at-risk of being made using forced labour including $15 billion of electronics and $10 billion in garments and textiles.

Dr Martin Buttle, Better Work Lead, CCLA, says, “As investors we are in a strong position to contribute to ending modern slavery in businesses. We recognise that human rights, and specifically modern slavery, is a material risk for companies and that they need to do more to find, fix and prevent it on a global scale. While benchmarks may be a crude measure, the gathering of such data is important and enables more meaningful, targeted and potentially fruitful discussions between investors and companies to tackle modern slavery within a company’s own operations as well as its supply chain”.

“Our intention is that the benchmark, through regular repeated assessments of companies on their modern slavery commitments and practices, will provide an accountability mechanism by allowing investors and other stakeholders to assess whether companies are effectively managing the business risks associated with modern slavery. We also believe it will provide a vehicle for companies to learn and to share examples of good practices and create a mechanism to leverage business competition to drive improvement”.

The benchmark report is based on companies’ public disclosures and the assessment assigns them to one of five tiers. Kingfisher, Marks & Spencer, Next, Reckitt Benckiser, Tesco and Unilever all appear in tier one as leaders on human rights innovation. CCLA says these companies have displayed an evolved and mature approach to human rights due diligence, with extensive discussion on the risks, case studies on systemic modern slavery risks in the sector, and discussion on meaningful activity to find, fix and prevent modern slavery.

All of those companies appearing in tier one and half those appearing in tier two were consumer discretionary and consumer staples. Performance tiers three and four were dominated by financials, industrials and materials. Across the tiers, there was significant difference between the most and least active in addressing modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.

All of the companies assessed disclosed policies to manage the risk of modern slavery in their supply chains, mainly through a combination of desk-based risk assessment and onsite audits. Just under a third (30) of companies assessed disclosed the steps taken to end ongoing risks where a violation was found and only nine reported outcomes of the remedy process for victims. Forty-two companies disclosed a policy relating to responsible procurement practices but only 14 provided examples of their practices. Only around one quarter of companies (25 companies) reported finding modern slavery in their supply chain.