Professionals holding procurement jobs in Australia, from supply chain interims to permanent full-time employees, have an important piece of new legislation to contend with: the country’s first modern slavery bill. Modelled on a law passed in the UK in April 2016, a similar bill has been introduced by the Australian Assistant Minister for Home Affairs, Alex Hawke.

The law seeks to eradicate the sale of any product in Australia that has involved any form of non-voluntary labour, including child labour, in the supply chain. Like its counterparts in Britain, France and the Netherlands, it obliges large organisations to regularly audit their supply chains from end-to-end. The legislation has also affected smaller firms in these countries, who have felt the pressure to clear their practice.

Any Australian organisation with an annual consolidated revenue in excess of $100m (approximately 3000 firms) will be obliged to publish annual reports, signed off at board level, on their endeavours to remove modern slavery from their supply chains.

Everyone working in procurement and supply chain job shares a unique position: they’re ideally placed to stamp out modern slavery, spotting the subtle signs that could indicate dubious practices. Modern slavery tends to be more prevalent in conflict zones and unregulated sectors, especially where jobs are poorly paid and require few skills or no education. Extra vigilance is called for in these scenarios, especially for migrant workers, women and children who are the most vulnerable.

In a comment relevant to all procurement professionals, Fiona David, former Executive Director of Global Research at the Walk Free Foundation, said: “Procurement teams are on the frontline. They manage supplier relationships, they understand the business, the risks and the regions in which they operate. The indicators of modern slavery, being a grievous crime, is actually quite easy to identify, when you know what you are looking for.”

She urged procurement and CSR teams to collaborate across sectors on tackling this issue, adding: “Companies can’t compete on sub-standard ethical and criminal practices.”

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