Have you ever asked a promotional company, “I am looking for a lower-cost alternative to fit my budget?”
You may not realise the true implication of this question, as exploited sweatshop labourers are what make cheap clothes possible. Modern slavery is real, it’s happening across the globe … Australia included.
Modern slavery is the exploitation of people for personal or commercial gain. Often, this presents itself as regular employment, but what we might not see on the outside is that the “employment” is actually a form of control. Modern slavery has many forms, and here are the most common as reported by antislavery.org
- Human trafficking. The use of violence, threats or coercion to transport, recruit or harbour people in order to exploit them for purposes such as forced prostitution, labour, criminality, marriage or organ removal.
- Forced labour. Any work or services people are forced to do against their will under threat of punishment.
- Debt bondage/bonded labour. The world’s most widespread form of slavery. People trapped in poverty borrow money and are forced to work to pay off the debt, losing control over both their employment conditions and the debt.
- Descent–based slavery. Most traditional form, where people are treated as property, and their “slave” status was passed down the maternal line.
- Slavery of children. When a child is exploited for someone else’s gain. This can include child trafficking, child soldiers, child marriage and child domestic slavery.
- Forced and early marriage. When someone is married against their will and cannot leave. Most child marriages can be considered slavery.
It can be hard to believe that these nightmarish scenarios exist inside supply chains, but they do. To make matters worse, some factories/suppliers are unaware or choose not to investigate the sourcing of the raw materials used to produce their products. They become fixated on keeping costs down and don’t address the most basic questions like “What makes the cost of these materials lower than others?” Or the more important questions like “Are my raw materials being produced through forced labour, human trafficking, or other types of slavery?”
Let’s take a quick look at two massive industries around the world, chocolate and cotton. I know we have all purchased products made from chocolate or cotton, and it doesn’t matter if the purchase was within the promotional sector or retail because the supply chains are identical.
The Ivory Coast in West Africa produces around two-fifths of the world’s cocoa, with 60% of its revenue coming from exports of that crop. Child workers on Ivorian plantations work from early in the morning until nightfall. They use dangerous tools such as machetes and chainsaws and are beaten if they work too slowly or try to escape. They are either sold into enslavement by their families, trafficked from relatively poorer countries like neighbouring Burkina Faso or Mali, or kidnapped. Two-fifths of the world’s cocoa means there is a very high likelihood that we have all purchased cocoa-based products originating from the Ivory Coast. You can read more about the Ivory Coast here.
At age seven, a young girl was forced to pick cotton in the hot sun along with thousands of other children under a state-controlled system of forced, unpaid labour in Uzbekistan, Central Asia. She recalls her memories by saying, “It was something we accepted as normal because other families were forced to do that.” “All the schools and colleges would close because the kids would stop studying so they could go to the fields and pick cotton.” Fortunately, Nazira Zuptarova escaped her nightmare and now lives as a young adult in Sydney studying for Master of Human Rights Law. She is passionate about ending forced labour, and you can read more of her story here. But what about all of the children that never got away?
There was an incredible social experiment run in Europe connected to public awareness connected to the t-shirt industry. You can view the video here.
Stories of survivors.
There are incredible stories of the survivors, which you can read by visiting freetheslaves.net, but it’s the stories of those who did not escape that keep me up at night. This is why we at TurnKey Promotions are taking an active role in diving deep into our supply chain. Holding our suppliers accountable and only working with supply chains that have 100% transparency.
What we are doing to stop the cycle.
TurnKey Promotions recognises that we operate in a potentially high-risk industry sector. Our risk classification results from complex and diverse supply chains that encompass risks of modern slavery, ethical sourcing, environmental and product quality concerns.
The promotional products industry in Australia and New Zealand is diverse. It is comprised of several providers such as decorators, suppliers, distributors, and other service providers with unique risks in their supply chains. We recognise that our role in complex and diverse supply chains does not preclude us from instilling a culture of transparency and working with suppliers and customers to address risks of ethical sourcing and modern slavery.
While we are not a reporting entity under the Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018 (or any other current or proposed legislation), we are committed to assessing and addressing the risks of modern slavery in our supply chain by empowering and educating our staff and suppliers.
We have a five-tiered program in place:
1. Demonstrating genuine commitment to managing risk and protecting vulnerable workers to send a message that we are an ethically responsible business and enable stakeholders’ meaningful engagement.
2. Understanding the sources of actual and potential modern slavery risk in our operations and supply chains is central to managing those risks. Remembering that our direct suppliers won’t always represent the highest risk.
3. Engaging with suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders to build meaningful relationships which enhance our risk management program.
4. Taking prompt action to address issues identified within our supply chain to protect vulnerable people, our company’s reputation (and yours), and our business relationships.
5. Modern slavery is a dynamic issue that requires a flexible and effective risk management response, ongoing monitoring, continuous improvement, and education. We maintain an ongoing dialogue with suppliers and other key stakeholders to identify potential issues as they arise and ensure corrective actions are implemented. We review our systems to ensure we are managing risks and improve them as required.
A copy of our Ethical Sourcing and Modern Slavery Policy can be viewed here. TurnKey Promotions has also enrolled in a series of educational courses for continued learning, completing the first on 30 July 2021 titled “Know Slavery” – Certificate can be viewed here.
Modern Slavery Act 2018
Under the Act, the Australian Government must maintain an online publicly accessible register of modern slavery statements submitted by reporting entities (the Register).
The Register was launched on 30 July 2020, and the first tranche of modern slavery statements was published on 27 November 2020.
For the first complete reporting cycle under the Act, which ended on 30 June 2021, there were close to 2,500 statements submitted to the Register, representing nearly 4,500 entities.
Statements are due quarterly and apply to Australian entities, or entities carrying on business in Australia, with consolidated revenue of at least AUD $100 million for the reporting period.
NSW employers should, however, be aware that similar legislation was introduced in the state on 27 June 2018. The Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW) (Act) applies to commercial entities with at least one employee in NSW who supply goods and services for profit and has an annual turnover of at least $50 million, a much lower threshold than the Bill. In further contrast to the Bill, the NSW Act provides penalties in circumstances where an entity fails to comply with its reporting obligations with fines of up to 10,000 penalty points (currently $1.1 million).
The Modern Slavery reporting period of 1 July 2020 – 30 June 2021 deadline of 31 December is fast approaching and we are well placed to help if you need vendor information completed to complete the next phase of the reporting cycle.
Turnkey Promotions will never sacrifice its Ethical Sourcing and Modern Slavery Policy for concessions in pricing and we believe everyone should hold their supply chains accountable. When the price of ignorance is young lives, there is only one choice. Modern slavery must end.