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This article has been updated from the original article published 21 May 2020 with additional information from Business and Human Rights Consultants.
COVID-19 has demonstrated that strong and robust supply chains are important, especially in times of economic uncertainty. During this period, workers in supply chains have faced increased vulnerabilities, poverty and been more at risk of modern slavery with factory closures, order cancellations and lost jobs. COVID-19 has put corporate social responsibility to the test. Companies have increased expectations from their stakeholders to know their supply chain, know where risks lie and protect vulnerable workers in their supply chain, operations, products and services.
The Australian Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act (Act) operationalises this responsibility and it is relevant to over 500 New Zealand companies with a consolidated revenue of A$100 million carrying out business in Australia. New Zealand companies meeting this criteria are legally required to submit modern slavery statements to Australia’s Minister of Home Affairs outlining risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, including supply chains they own and control. The due date for reporting has been extended to March 2021.
Modern slavery statements have to be approved and signed off by directors. They are required to be comprehensive and address the following:
The Australian Border Force has encouraged reporting entities to address the impact of COVID-19 in modern slavery statements. Companies are encouraged to submit voluntary statements if they don’t meet the legal criteria for reporting.
Modern slavery statements should sit in front of a robust risk-management structure that competently identifies and mitigates modern slavery risk.
Modern slavery in supply chains should be on the agenda for all directors of New Zealand companies, regardless of whether they have to report to the Act or not. Understanding and addressing the impact to people in supply chains is part of a company’s responsibility to respect human rights.
Author: Rebekah Armstrong
Rebekah Armstrong is the director of Business and Human Rights Consultants, a firm that specialises in human rights and modern slavery in supply chain. For more information about modern slavery reporting see bhr.co.nz
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