By Surabhi Mukhi, APDN, Textiles Project Manager

Image by Paul Domenick

Abolition of Slavery House of Commons – 1789

“I take courage – I determine to forget all my other fears, and I march forward with a firmer step in the full assurance that my cause will bear me out, and that I shall be able to justify upon the clearest principles, every resolution in my hand, the avowed end of which is the abolition of the slave trade” – William Wilberforce – Abolition of Slavery Bill – 1792

Would companies be brave enough to subject themselves to a level of scrutiny that might publically expose significant flaws in their supply chains? Would they wish to be associated with connected to ‘slavery’ in any way? Many companies have tried to eradicate slavery from their supply chains attempting different approaches, readjusting their methods when some of them didn’t work. The transparency that has emerged through their efforts is quite remarkable.

Companies can show courage in their everyday processes by building up policies, leadership, risk assessment and engagement in their supply chains:

Here are some courageous questions they can ask themselves:

  • Does the company recruitment policy reference Slavery and Labor Standards?
  • Does the company have a policy and process for whistleblowing and supporting victims Leadership & Governance?
  • Have the leadership endorsed and supported approaches to combating labor exploitation?
  • Are the company’s governance systems in place to monitor progress against your policy?
  • Has the company trained its staff on the principles of exploitation?
  • Where is your biggest risk for exploitation?
  • How has the company engaged its supply chain?

How companies can assess their risks:

  • Understanding how products are made and where they are coming from
  • Knowing where labor is recruited from
  • Pinpointing the sources of products coming from countries that have human rights violations; knowing if labor is being locally sourced or being brought in from abroad

If businesses are ready to take on their share of the fight, things could change rapidly. A new global ranking, the Modern Slavery Index, says companies are exposed to slavery in their supply chains in 115 countries – almost 60% of the world’s nations.

Modern-day slavery is a silent crime. Victims cannot stand up and speak out. Perpetrators act in almost total impunity. Yet a growing global thirst for cheap products and fast fashion ensures the most vulnerable will continue to be enslaved, often hidden so far down the supply chain of a multinational corporation that those running the business will not know of this if they don’t actively look out for it.

The complexity of today’s global supply chains means that today no corporation can confidently declare it is slave-free. But when businesses start to think of human rights as an imperative, there is a glimmer of hope.

Knowing where your goods come from and how they are made are important questions to ask your supply chain partners. Applied DNA Sciences can help create supply chain transparency, traceability and trust among your goods.