Why are we behind this petition? asking the Government to create a modern slavery database.
In June 2018, the Environmental Audit Committee launched an inquiry into the Sustainability of the Fashion Industry. Fashion Revolution was a key contributor to this report, giving evidence to help guide their understanding of the scope of the fashion industry and suggesting policy decisions that would help tackle poverty, inequality and environmental degradation. We believe greater transparency is the crucial first step towards solving fashion’s human rights and environmental crises.
In 2015, UK Parliament passed the Modern Slavery Act, requiring large brands to explain what they are doing to tackle modern slavery in their supply chains. Section 54 of the Act requires any commercial organisation carrying out business in the UK with a turnover of at least £36 million, to prepare and publish a slavery and human trafficking statement for every financial year. The company does not need to be based in the UK in order for section 54 to apply; as long as it carries out part of its business in the UK, it will fall under the scope of the Modern Slavery Act.
The Modern Slavery Act is an important piece of legislation, but has been criticised for being ‘toothless’ as there is no meaningful enforcement or penalties. Research shows that garments are among the biggest items at risk of being produced through modern slavery, but the Environmental Audit Committee noted that some major fashion brands and retailers, including Foot Locker and Versace, are failing to comply with the Modern Slavery Act. They recommended that Company law must be updated to require modern slavery disclosures by 2022. Companies must report, or face a fine.
Fashion Revolution believes that laws and regulations are key to transforming the fashion industry and are vital for progressing greater transparency in the fashion industry, amongst other sectors. Legislation such as the Modern Slavery Act and the California Transparency in Supply Chains require companies to provide the public with information regarding their efforts to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their supply chains. In our Fashion Transparency Index research, we regularly note that this legislation appears to have led to an increase in the number of brands and retailers disclosing information about their factory audit processes. However, its scope and implementation is too limited.
In January 2019, Australia’s Modern Slavery Act started to take effect. Whilst similar to the UK legislation, it goes one step further by requiring the Australian government to make all Modern Slavery Statements available online through a government-managed register.
Our recommendation is to begin by strengthening the UK Modern Slavery Act transparency requirements through a variety of actions and the first of these should be the establishment, maintenance and monitoring of an easily searchable public database of the companies that are required to comply, alongside a copy of their annual statements. Indeed, an influential cross-party group of MPs has already concluded that having a central Government database is a sensible step forward.
This is why we are working with Traidcraft Exchange to help speed things up! If we raise our voices together, we can make the Government take responsibility for enforcing its own law. Please sign our petition.
Traidcraft Exchange is an international development charity which uses the power of trade to bring about lasting solutions to poverty. It runs development programmes in South Asia and Africa, works directly with businesses to improve their supply chains, and does advocacy and campaigning in the UK to promote justice and fairness in international trade. It works closely with specialist fair trade company Traidcraft plc. Traidcraft Exchange is a registered charity, no. 1048752: https://www.