Behind the standard: Eradicating modern slavery Part 1: Risk factor identification
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January 26, 2023 - BSI’s recent standard BS 25700 Organizational responses to modern slavery provides guidance for organizations on managing modern slavery risks within their operations and supply chains. In part one of ‘Behind the Standard: Eradicating Modern Slavery,’ we’ll examine the standard in more detail and cover the risk factors that organizations should identify.
According to the 2021 ‘Global Estimates of Modern Slavery’ by the Walk Free Foundation, 49.6m people worldwide are living in situations of modern slavery. In response to this, BS 25700 has been created to help organizations take practical steps to eradicate the issue within their operating environment and supply chains.
One significant takeaway from the standard is the need for organizations to communicate their values and requirements related to modern slavery, both internally to stakeholders and externally to partners. Organizations must clarify expectations around pay, living and working conditions, and working hours, particularly when it comes to the most vulnerable groups of people throughout their value chain. Modern slavery should not be viewed as a box-ticking exercise. The process is iterative and includes establishing, implementing, and assessing the effectiveness of measures.
Risk factors for modern slavery
Regardless of sector or industry, every country is susceptible to modern slavery. However, there are several factors identified in the standard that can increase the risk of modern slavery for workers, including:
- Geography: workers in countries with no legal accountability or labour market governance. A risk-based approach should be taken by organizations reaching into these countries
- Labour market structure: workers in countries that are dominated by a single or small number of industries can become more vulnerable, due to lack of employment choices
- Migration for work: recruitment of workers from countries that are not their place of residence
- Discrimination: factors including gender, ethnicity, and religion
- Long and opaque value chains: lead to a lack of governance and therefore a higher risk of modern slavery
- Corruption: corrupt businesses are usually a root cause of modern slavery
- Vulnerable groups of people:
- men and women can be disproportionately affected in different sectors
- seasonal migrant workers on short-term contracts
- informal workers on zero-hours contracts can experience a lack of guaranteed working hours
- young workers and children in work under the age of 15
- socially disadvantaged groups who are socially excluded or in unstable societies
- Supply chain volatility: shorter-term contracts and frequently changing business make it more difficult to achieve transparency or ensure responsible behaviour throughout the supply chain
Organizational risk factors
Organizations should define and document the context in which they operate, including their supply chain, subcontractors, and business associates. The standard recognizes several types of risk factors in the organizational content, both internal and external:
- External context: factors that are outside the organization but related to the management of modern slavery risk, such as: social, cultural, political, or cultural factors and external stakeholders
- Internal context: factors that are substantially in the control of or subject to the authority of the organization through its governing and management systems, such as business objectives and strategies
It’s important to evaluate risk factors that can influence how the organization assesses and mitigates modern slavery risk. Results from this then feed into the organization’s overall modern slavery risk management system.
Supply chain awareness
It’s important for organizations to be highly aware of what's happening not only within their own business, but throughout their supply chains. They should take responsibility for all practices happening in the supply chain, and engage with suppliers to prevent, mitigate, and remediate the risk of modern slavery on a continual basis. This includes:
- establishing, planning, and conducting risk assessments with suppliers
- planning interventions
- building a transparent relationship with suppliers
- establishing an effective grievance process
- establishing a whistleblowing mechanism
Evaluating the bribery risk of partner relations
There is usually a direct correlation between companies who turn a blind eye to modern slavery, and those that disrespect ethical principles of business conduct, such as bribery.
Organizational awareness of this will allow the business to determine if their partners have an anti-bribery management system, or at the very least, anti-bribery controls in place. If the partner can’t implement controls or an anti-bribery management system, then this should be a factor in evaluating the bribery risk of the business relationship.
Additionally, third parties who may have a high risk of bribery, can instill confidence in the organization by committing to preventing bribery for the benefit of the partnership. If a third party breaks this promise, the organization should be able to end the partnership. If they can't make this promise, or the organization can't end the partnership because of bribery, they should take this into account when evaluating the risk of having the relationship.
Follow along with Ryan Lynch’s three-part series Behind the standard: Eradicating modern slavery to learn more about BS 25700: Organizational responses to modern slavery and listen to BSI’s latest episode of The Standards Show Eradicating modern slavery. Visit BSI's Experts Corner to read more on this topic in the series Fundamental of human rights and other important human rights issues including Sustainable supply chains.