Children working at a quarry overseas

Sourcing goods from countries with a high risk of modern slavery and human trafficking

Chris Harrop of Marshalls plc
Wednesday 16th October, 2019

Global supply chains have long been a concern for businesses in terms of ethics – but in recent years the awareness of consumers and buyers has grown too. Understanding the operations and attitude at every stage of your supply chain is key to ensuring your products are ethically sourced, but some countries carry greater risk than others.

At Marshalls we carry out extensive modern slavery risk mapping for all countries that we work with to create a deeper understanding of the environments we operate in. We’re proud to make this information publicly available for transparency but also to help others who source products from abroad too. Our Modern Slavery Country Profiling (PDF) contains more information on how we do this.

In 2019 the top 6 countries in terms of modern slavery risk, according to the above report are:
  • Egypt (Risk Score 0.53)
  • Vietnam (Risk Score 0.50)  
  • India (Risk Score 0.47)
  • China (Risk Score 0.46)
  • Brazil (Risk Score for both 0.42)
  • Turkey (Risk Score 0.41)
Risk Score is rated 0 - 1. The higher the score the higher the risk.
If your global supply chain includes Egypt, Vietnam, India, China, Brazil or Turkey, read on for our practical tips for ethical sourcing.

5 ethical sourcing tips if you source goods from ‘at risk’ countries

  1. Be smart and analyse

    Use internal data alongside publicly available modern slavery mapping, trends and analysis. Look at this in the light of your own procurement data and financial information, goods categorisation and anything else that you have that is useful. Use this to help focus your efforts by identifying top priorities; it can be overwhelming otherwise.
  2. Get out into your supply chain, often

    Walk your supply chain, map your supply chain, don’t rely on audits; do them by all means but do other things as well. Nothing beats seeing things for yourself, repeatedly.
  3. Educate, engage and empower employees as a priority

    They are the eyes and ears. When they understand the issues, and how to spot and report what they have seen, they have the means and heart to do what is right. They will ultimately be the ones to keep slavery out of business operations. Make it simple for them to report in the best way and keep themselves and the victim safe in the process. At Marshalls, as well as educating all staff about the signs of modern slavery, we have developed the Power of Logistics – training specifically for our logistics operation. Our training video is below for businesses to use themselves, and additional materials are available on request using the contact details at the bottom of this article.

  1. Engage with suppliers in a meaningful way

    But remember one size absolutely does not fit all. Re-framing modern slavery is often necessary; in India it may be about working with the sector to ensure that it is world class; in Vietnam, focusing upon forced labour and making industry more competitive as a result is a key driver. You will find that the language of modern slavery will need to be adaptable in order to get traction.
  2. Find and fix

    There is a window for applying a ‘find and fix’ approach so use it! A dogged and investigative approach pays dividends and talking to different and new partners in sourcing countries brings fresh thinking. Put down your framework, tool kits and protocols – you know enough - get out into business operations and supply chains; discover through active engagement, asking searching questions and challenging, where and how you can find leverage. Make it count at grass roots level; learn from mistakes and try new measures. Be prepared to roll-up your sleeves.
Find out more about the Marshalls approach to tackling modern slavery and read about the first three steps your business can take to join the fight against modern slavery in our article. If you're interested in using our Power of Logistics training within your own business, please contact our Business and Human Rights Lead Elaine Mitchel-Hill.

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