Government announces new modern slavery legislation

Proposed legislation requires organisations and businesses to be transparent about their operations and supply chains through a public register.

New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni has announced the introduction of new modern slavery legislation that requires organisations and businesses to be transparent about their operations and supply chains through a new public register.

Under the proposed legisation, which is expected to take around six months, organisations with more than $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,” Sepuloni said.

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.

“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,” Sepuloni said.

“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.

Chair of the Modern Slavery Leadership Advisory Group, Rob Fyfe said the changes are a positive step forward for kiwi business as more and more consumers demand 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.”

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