Our submission to the 2022 Australian Modern Slavery Action Review

December 19, 2022
ESG Insights

We were grateful for the chance to share our concerns that whilst the Act has had welcome positive impacts on the awareness of modern slavery by Australian Corporate, that many independent studies, as well as our own extensive internal analysis and company engagements have found that there is significant room for improvements in the quality of reporting, a risk of a focus on compliance vs real world action to address modern slavery, a focus on policies vs prevention and remediation, marked weaknesses in consultation, analysis and understanding of the lower views of supply chains, deficiencies in assessment of affective, a lack of accessible grievance mechanisms for vulnerable workers, poor response strategies and poor disclosures of labour rights violations or modern slavery incidents themselves. These are all areas that Ethical Partners has been actively engaging with all our portfolio, and other ASX listed companies on, as well as advocating for through the Investors Against Slavery and Trafficking education sessions and through our involvement with UNICEF in our recent Child Rights ASX Benchmarking report.

Our submission also focussed on the need for additional reporting on areas of specific high risk, such as the risk of Uyghur Forced Labour in Australian supply chains, or other areas of high risk highlighted by experts such as the Global Slavery Index. We also reiterated our support of Lists of at Risk Goods, and the Customs Amendment Bill 2020, the provision of further and updated guidance for companies, the appointment of an independent Ant-Slavery commissioner with adequate resourcing, and greater public clarity and independent assessment on the quality of a company’s modern slavery reporting. Importantly, Ethical Partners also argued for the application of penalties for inadequate reporting by ASX listed companies, and for lowering the threshold to bring it in line with the UK Act and the proposed NSW Modern Slavery Act.

Finally, we also advocated for a shift to a mandatory due diligence approach vs a transparency approach, as per the current act, in order to both bring us in line with international reporting requirements, align with international conventions, and as a more appropriate way to confront and address modern slavery threats and drivers. The requirement on companies to carry out human rights due diligence, to identify existing and potential negative impacts, and have a duty to not only identify but also prevent, mitigate and remedy risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, including a requirement for consultation and remediation, and the requirement to “do no harm” is something Ethical Partners both strongly supports, and continues to engage with our portfolio companies, NGO’s, regulators and the government on.

We look forward to the results of this recent consultation and continuing this advocacy over the coming years.

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