The use of slave labour, child labour, debt bondage and worker exploitation isn’t a distant tragedy being played out in some foreign land - it is here in New Zealand. Whether it is in our fruit picking industry, vineyards, restaurants, or some other business, it is here on our shores.
It is also prevalent in the goods we purchase from overseas. Which goods? Pretty much all of them. If you were to trace the whole lineage of the supply chain associated with any product, you will find child labour, slave labour, debt bondage and worker exploitation. A laptop for example, is made up of components from literally hundreds of suppliers, many from different countries. As is your Iphone.
The world is finally waking up to this epidemic, and new laws are being introduced around the world to try to combat the use of slave labour in supply chains. Emphasis is being placed on individual companies, making it their responsibility to ensure the integrity of their supply chain.
In New Zealand, rules proposed for stamping out slavery will apply to all New Zealand companies earning more than $20 million in revenue.
Under the proposals, organisations including churches, trusts and incorporated societies with more than $20m annual revenue will have to report and outline actions taken to address exploitation risks in their operations and supply chains.
This will involve in-depth understanding of an organisation’s supply chain, which isn’t happening right now. It will also require comprehensive due diligence, investigations, background checks and on-site visits.
Companies and organisations can no longer rely on the integrity of their supplier, and their supplier’s supplier, they will have to investigate the whole supply chain themselves.
How will they do this? Supply chain mapping and verification of supply chains is a start. However it is only a start. A ‘desktop’ solution of sending out questionnaires to suppliers and their suppliers expecting an honest response is risky. No one will admit to exploiting their labour.
Ultimately companies may need to invest in in-depth research of their complete supply chain and in-depth ‘feet on the ground’ investigations of suspicious suppliers.
Companies have lost millions of dollars in revenue once they have been exposed for using slave or child labour in their supply chains The cost of a full spectrum investigation is only a fraction of the cost of lost revenue and a tarnished brand name.
Public opinion is as important, if not more important, than new legislation. New Zealand companies and organisations need to make sure that they don’t fall foul of either.
About Andrew Goddard
Andrew is Chief Operations Officer and Head of Investigations for www.sourcetick.com
“Sourcetick is an organisation that has investigated supply chains, worker exploitation and human trafficking around the world for a number of years. We are world leaders in investigations, exposing slave labour in a variety of industries, from canned fish to electronics and pharmaceuticals. We map out an organisation’s supply chain, and irregularity or suspicious activity is investigated at source, using boots on the ground investigations. “
Andrew has over 30 years experience conducting investigations around the world.