The Government is introducing new legislation that will require organisations and businesses to be transparent about their operations and supply chains through a new public register in a bid to combat modern slavery.
Organisations with over $20 million in revenue will be required to report and outline the actions they take to address exploitation risks in their operations and supply chains.
“We’re taking action to address modern slavery and eliminate exploitation in our supply chains. It’s vital we bring modern slavery practices out of the shadows and into the daylight so we can ensure workers are safe and treated with dignity,” said Workplace Relations and Safety Minister, Carmel Sepuloni.
“Since the pandemic, we’ve seen modern slavery balloon globally. The International Labour Organization and Walk Free now estimates that 50 million people are in modern slavery on any given day, compared to an estimated 40 million in 2016.”
This proposed legislation and public register will be among the world’s strongest reporting systems for tackling modern slavery, the Minister said.
“During consultation we heard clearly from business that this legislation is crucial. We already know some businesses are ensuring they don’t have modern slavery in their supply chains, and this will help level the playing field.”
“The changes will mean that conscious Kiwi consumers will have more transparency about the products and services they consume. World Vision estimates Kiwi households inadvertently pay an average of $34 each week to industries whose products are implicated in modern slavery.
“We have commitments in our Free Trade Agreements with the United Kingdom and the EU to take steps to prevent modern slavery in our supply chains and promote responsible business conduct. A lack of action will be detrimental to our trading relationships.
“It’s important we continue to bolster New Zealand’s transparent and ethical reputation within our export markets and on the global stage. Now, more than ever, is the time to put steps into place to prevent these horrible practices from occurring.
“Our focus on larger organisations strikes an appropriate balance, by encouraging those most able to influence their more extensive supply chains, and not overburdening small businesses.
“Consultation on Modern Slavery Supply Chain reform was held last year, and we heard loud and clear the need for these changes. I would like to thank Rob Fyfe and the Modern Slavery Leadership Advisory Group for their hard work and commitment to this important issue.
“Broader reform to progress the other more complex components that were consulted upon remains a priority for this Government, including ‘due diligence’ and ‘take action’ responsibilities. I am committed to progressing this work for future decisions,” she said.
Drafting of the legislation is expected to take around six months.
“My experience working with companies both in New Zealand and Internationally has shown me just how important it is to know your operations and supply chains, and the value you can add to your business and brand through doing good business,” said Chair of the Modern Slavery Leadership Advisory Group, Rob Fyfe.
“I admire businesses who are taking the lead in addressing modern slavery and not waiting for legislative change, but we must create a level playing field and ensure that as business leaders, our quest for cost competitiveness does not come at the cost of enabling modern slavery practices within our operations and supply chains.
“These changes are a positive step forward for kiwi business and our international trading reputation. More and more we are seeing consumers demanding transparency on the products they buy.
“The challenge consumers currently have, is that there is no easy way to find out what’s going on in the supply chains. There is no way to know what went into making the clothes they’re wearing. This reporting system will help bring this information to the fore.
“These important changes bring us in to step with a number of our key trading partners the growing expectations of our domestic and international consumers,” he said.