Companies urged to address human trafficking threat

Ahead of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons a major organisation has urged businesses to ensure they are doing all they can to prevent human rights violations both within their organisations and in their supply chains.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)  has called for immediate action to improve and enforce laws around human trafficking as latest global estimates suggest around 50 million people were living in modern slavery in 2021. Of these, 28 million were in forced labour.

IOSH said it believes “we need global, national and sectorial strategies and action to tackle and eradicate forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour while also ensuring the provision of a safe and healthy working environment”.

To deliver the necessary action the organisation said it requires global efforts for implementing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, improvements in laws, enforcing laws and having more robust due diligence processes with transparency, and awareness raising in place to combat modern slavery and other human rights violations in business and supply chains.

Ruth Wilkinson, head of policy at IOSH, explained: “Legislative developments such as the Australian Modern Slavery Act in 2018 and the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015 in the UK have been steps in the right direction, but we are now seeing signs of stagnation and millions of people still being impacted by the worst forms of labour exploitation. We must remember also that these workers will be exposed to poor working conditions and practices and health and safety dangers.

“Renewed efforts, action and transparency need to continue over the long term if sustainable results are to be achieved in order to avoid these frameworks being considered a mere “tick-box” requirement to modern slavery.”

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons is organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and will be held on 30 July. This year’s theme is ‘leave no one behind’ and highlights the fact that global crises, conflict and the climate emergency are escalating trafficking risks.

With people living in poverty and having limited access to education, healthcare and decent work often being the primary targets of traffickers, the UNODC is calling for strong action.

IOSH said it supports this call and is urging businesses to be aware, take action and play their part as well. The Institution contributed to the publication in 2022 of the standard BS 25700 (Organizational responses to modern slavery – Guidance), which will now be part of an upcoming ISO 37200 – Guidance for the prevention, identification and response to human trafficking, forced labour, and modern slavery.

“IOSH has previously called for business practices to identify and manage modern slavery risks in line with other aspects of their other environmental, social and corporate governance polices. It has also advocated for the UK government to stronger align with current trends on mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation,” Wilkinson said.