Prepare for slavery act or risk ‘disaster’

By Michael Stones contact

- Last updated on GMT

Big firms risk untold reputational damage if they breach the Modern Slavery Act
Big firms risk untold reputational damage if they breach the Modern Slavery Act

Related tags: Management, Vice president, Human trafficking

Food and drink businesses with a turnover of more than £36M a year should prepare now to comply with the new Modern Slavery Act or risk “disaster”, warns law firm Roythornes, after Nestlé revealed plans to stamp out labour abuses in its supply chain.

All firms exceeding the threshold turnover are required by law to produce a slavery and human trafficking statement. This document should include: supply chain details, company policies on preventing slavery and human trafficking and the potential risks connected with slavery and trafficking. See the full list of requirements below.

Failing to comply with the new legislation risks “major reputational problems and a potential public relations disaster” ​if the business becomes linked to wrong-doing, said Roythornes.

Lead to big costs

While the legislation does not impose financial penalties on companies that fail to comply, the adverse effects of being prosecuted for failing to do so could lead to big costs for food businesses.

Roythornes advised managers to devote the amount of time and effort to the creation of anti-slavery policies proportionate to the size of their business and the risks to which they were exposed.

Activist groups were likely look closely at how well companies follow the new legislation and  pressurise those which fail to act.

Head of food and drink at Roythornes, Peter Bennett, said: “We’re being asked more and more questions about the Modern Slavery Act and how businesses can meet their obligations under it.

“The key point is that businesses should not be tempted to simply rest on their laurels because there is no financial penalty within the legislation.”

Nestlé boss on forced labour

“Nestlé is committed to eliminating forced labour in our seafood supply chain in Thailand ...”

  • Magdi Batato, executive vice president of operations  

‘More damaging than any fine’

The punishment for failing to meet obligations under the act could potentially be decided by the court of public opinion which could be “far more damaging than any fine”​, he said.

Read more about Roythorne’s advice on the new legislation here​.

Meanwhile, last week global food giant Nestlé admitted “unacceptable practices” ​in its seafood supply chain in Thailand and launched an action plan​ to remedy them.

The firm’s executive vice president of operations Magdi Batato said: “Nestlé is committed to eliminating forced labour in our seafood supply chain in Thailand, working alongside other stakeholders to tackle this serious and complex issue.

“We believe that out action plan will improve the lives of those affected by unacceptable practices. This will be neither be a quick nor an easy endeavour, but we look forward to making significant progress in the months ahead.”

 

Slavery and human trafficking statement

  • Supply chain information
  • Company policies on preventing slavery and human trafficking
  • Due diligence details on ensuring slavery and human trafficking does not occur in the company’s supply chain both in the UK and overseas
  • Potential risks and what is done to mitigate them
  • Details of training for staff in relation to the issue

Source: Roythornes

Related topics: Policy, South East Asia, Supply chain

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