Submission on Modern Slavery

By Institute of Directors
9 Jun 2022
read time
60 min to read
Grey triangular patterns

Modern slavery and worker exploitation practices take many forms. They include forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, other slavery and slavery like practice, and human trafficking. Worker exploitation includes non-minor breaches of employment standards in New Zealand.

MBIE has developed a set of proposals that focus on options to treat the underlying causes of modern slavery and worker exploitation. Their proposed approach is to introduce disclosure and due diligence-based legislation, supported by guidance and tools to help improve practices.

While it is proposed some of the new responsibilities apply to all organisations, organisations with higher revenue would have more responsibilities.

Consumers are also considered to play an important role in ensuring the overall effectiveness of the regulatory approach and would be encouraged to make informed decisions in relation to modern slavery, as part of their consumption decisions.

MBIE has provided examples of the type of actions that would be expected from organisations to prevent and mitigate any identified risks in the supply chain. The appropriate actions will depend on the circumstances but could include:

  • Regularly surveying suppliers to assess competence with protecting human rights and employment standards
  • Commissioning third-party audits of suppliers’ compliance with human rights and employment standards
  • Establishing mechanisms for people in an entity’s operations or supply chains to report concerns directly to the entity
  • Educating suppliers, and workers in their supply chains, about relevant rights and obligations.

We are generally supportive of MBIE’s proposals including legislation applying to all entities in Aotearoa New Zealand on a graduated basis.

However, we are also calling for an ethical approach to underpin the regulatory approach as we think this will provide the best chance of countering a compliance approach and achieving the intended outcomes.   An ethical approach aims to build ethical capability within organisations and enable them to effectively and sustainably integrate an ethics perspective into their systems and processes.

We also support the development of policy and associated legislation that allows for organisations to respond dynamically to the greatest risks in their supply chain.

Adopting an integrated and systemic approach that builds board and organisational capability to dynamically respond to modern slavery, backed by greater transparency and due diligence requirements is more likely to lead to wider culture and behavioural changes by businesses and customers. We believe this approach will more likely achieve the intended policy outcomes. 

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