Modern Slavery

Tod Cooper
Member with delegated authority for
Procurement/ Online Training/ Whistleblowing

by Tod Cooper

Member with delegated authority for

Procurement, Whistleblowing

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles on how we can address modern slavery, in particular in our supply chain, both individually and within organisations. The term relates to exploitation of people, in particular throughout supply chains that provide us with the products and services (imported and local) we benefit from. 


New Zealand is languishing behind in introducing a Modern Slavery Act. This is especially concerning when our primary industries are so susceptible to exploitation.

How many slaves are working for you?

No, this is not a question following on from the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863, which led to abolishing slavery in the United States. This is a relevant question for you and me and how our everyday lives adversely impact others in the modern global “free market”. 

What is Modern Slavery

Modern slavery is broader than what we traditionally envisage slavery to be. Not only does it include forced labour – 68% of all slavery – but it also denotes human trafficking, slavery-like practices such as debt bondage, and the sale or exploitation of children and immigrants. (See slavery in modern supply chains.)

According to the Global Slavery Index, an estimated 30 million people in the world today live in some form of modern slavery. That’s roughly the combined population of Australia and New Zealand! The International Labour Organisation estimates that the profit generated by forced labour is $US150 billion annually

Awareness – How many slaves do work for me?

Justin Dillon, founder of Slavery Footprint, and his team have developed a simple narrative-based survey to determine your personal slavery footprint and help you understand your connection to modern-day slavery. The goal was simple: engage individuals, groups, and businesses to build awareness for, and create action against, modern-day slavery.

I took the survey, to assess what I eat, how I dress, where I live, and how I get to work. I spent a lot of time refining my categories to get the metrics as accurate as possible (without counting my underwear!).

Imagine my horror to have the results indicate I have 57 slaves in my personal supply chain. To clarify, this number of people is assessed to be involved in growing or producing raw materials, in manufacturing of goods and delivery of the goods and services that I enjoy. 

Acceptance and Action

Yes, we could now argue the representational validity of the survey. Regardless I have accepted this number as factual.

 I have set a goal for myself to ‘tweak’ my lifestyle and purchasing choices over the next 12-months to reduce the number of slaves in my supply chain to below 40 – a 30% reduction. I have three daughters, 7, 11, and 14, so this will be a challenge. It is a challenge worth fighting for because every slave in my supply chain is unacceptable!

If we all reduce slavery in our supply chain by 30% over the next 12-months, collectively we will wipe $US45-Billion off the annual slavery trade. That will have an impact! Try it, go to

Modern Slavery Act

While the United Kingdom leads the way with the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and the Australian Government in in the process of establishing a Modern Slavery Act this year, New Zealand has yet to take action. Where is the political leadership from the first self-governing country to give women the right to vote in parliamentary elections and more recently, to establish same sex equality? 


If you have specific questions please contact me at

To quote Japanese Poet Ryunosuke Satoro about the value of Unity: “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”

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