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November 13th, 2014
Canada doesn’t need to be an economic superpower to lead the world

Canada’s place in the world has been in the news lately, for a variety of reasons. For starters, Canadian jets have been hitting Islamic State military positions in Iraq. For American readers, who are more used to seeing their military show its muscle, I should clarify: this is newsworthy in Canada. Canadians have historically thought […]

November 25th, 2013
The business of modern-day slavery

Events last week in the UK, where three women were rescued from what appears to be a 30 year-long situation of forced domestic labour situation, have focused a great deal of attention on "modern-day slavery". But it is hardly a one-off. Issues of forced labour, human trafficking and modern slavery are increasingly gaining public attention. Business, however, has been slow to engage in the conversation.

Perhaps this is no surprise given that no company wants to run the risk of being tainted with the spectre of slavery. But most of the big modern slavery stories involve business. From children forced to harvest cotton in Uzbekistan to labourers enslaved to fish in the waters of New Zealand, hardly a week goes by without a new story of extreme exploitation being splashed across the media. The appalling treatment of migrant construction workers in Qatar the build up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup has gained more exposure than most, likely because of the headline claim that construction for the World Cup will leave 4000 migrant workers dead. It is a heart-stopping statistic.

With all this noise around modern slavery, much of it at the hands of campaigners such as Anti-Slavery International, Free the Slaves, and Walk Free (who are responsible for the recently launched Global Slavery Index), governments at least are gradually starting to act. The UK Government is already in the process of drafting a modern slavery bill to make the complex legal situation around the issue more clear for prosecutors. The US has also launched initiatives to tackle human trafficking in the supply chains of companies and government contractors. Canada too now has a national action plan to combat human trafficking whilst Brazil has perhaps gone the furthest of any country in seeking to tackle the problem.

Such measures are to be applauded, but there's still a long way to go in effectively combating the worst forms of human exploitation. And one crucial player that so far hasn't brought much to the party is business. Compared with many other social and environmental issues, modern slavery has not seen much enthusiastic response from the business community. Although virtually all corporate codes of conduct prohibit any kind of forced labour, the issue is rarely given any particular attention. Most businesses simply assume that it doesn't affect them. However, the torrent of news stories across various countries and industries suggests otherwise. Companies just aren't looking hard enough to find their connection to modern slavery.

David Arkless, formerly President of Corporate and Government Affairs at the global temp agency Manpower, is probably the most visible and articulate member of the business community involved in anti-slavery efforts. He said last week that he was "frustrated by the lack of involvement of corporations in efforts to ensure that their supply chains are verified against the use of abused labour and that most of the big corporations of the world have not amended both their financial, expense and human resource policies.” You can understand his frustration. Most business leaders are simply burying their heads in the sand.

This is a major stumbling block because most forms of modern slavery either involve business or affect it in some way. After all, forced labour is a particular way of doing business - a morally regnant one for sure, but a business practice all the same. Even illegal industries such as prostitution and drug cultivation, both of which have had numerous documented cases of trafficking and forced labour, rely on business principles and come into contact with legitimate businesses at some stage. The bottom line is that we have to understand modern slavery as a business if we are to make any real sense of it and take appropriate steps to prevent it.

The research base exploring the business of modern slavery is especially thin. So I was pleased last week to help launch a new report funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on the business models and supply chains found in forced labour in the UK. It was a fascinating project to be involved in, and along with my co-authors, I'm hoping that it really helps to shine a light on the economics of modern slavery in developed country contexts.

One of our main findings is that although forced labour is often described as a hidden crime, it is not as difficult to unearth as many in the UK, including businesses and government, seem to believe. As my co-author Genevieve LeBaron and I say in a recent article for The Guardian: "The problem is not so much that we cannot find forced labour; it is that either we choose not to look where it is most likely to occur or we simply misclassify those being exploited as criminals rather than victims. A new approach to detecting and enforcing forced labour is necessary. To pinpoint its occurrence we need to start by examining the forces of supply and demand."

Much still needs to be done to really understand how these economic forces lead to such extreme forms of exploitation. But the good news is that we're making good progress. The challenge will be getting legislators and business leaders alike to take our findings seriously.


Photo by Junaidrao. Reproduced under Creative Commons licence

August 14th, 2013
Hai-Handel boomt

Berlin (csr-news) > Ein toter Hai in der New Yorker U-Bahn, aber bis zu 100 Millionen gefangene und getötete Haie jährlich – auf diese Diskrepanz macht der WWF anlässlich der Veröffentlichung einer neuen Studie aufmerksam. Etwa ein Fünftel der weltweit gefangenen Haie gehen

September 13th, 2012
Neue Zusammensetzung im Dow Jones Sustainability Index

BMW hat es wieder geschafft und wird bereits zum achten Mal in Folge als weltweit nachhaltigster Autobauer im Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) geführt. Jährlich wird die Zusammensetzung des wichtigsten Aktienindex für nachhaltiges Investment neu beraten. In diesem Jahr werden 41 Unternehmen neu aufgenommen und 41 müssen ausscheiden. Zum Handelsstart der Börsen am 24. September treten die Änderungen in Kraft.

May 16th, 2012
Team from University of Auckland Business School, New Zealand, wins the PRME LEADERS+20 competition

(Aarhus/New York) - Two students and their lecturer have won a trip to the UN Rio+20 Conference for Sustainable Development. They will present their project about how universities and business schools can create future leaders of a sustainable world. "How do we develop a new

March 20th, 2012
Investors Representing US$3 Trillion Show Support for the Global Compact, While Stepping up Pressure on Corporate Responsibility Reporting

(London) – A coalition of global investors from 12 countries managing over US$3 trillion of assets today added its voice to increasing calls for better corporate reporting on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) activities. The coalition of investors, all signatories to the UN-backed

March 7th, 2012
Strengthening the Business Case for Gender Equality, 400 CEOs Commit to Women’s Empowerment Principles

(New York) – Four hundred chief executives worldwide have publicly declared their commitment to implementing the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) over the last two years, as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women, will highlight today at the 4th

October 8th, 2011
Neuseeland befürchtet schlimmste Umweltkatastrophe seit Jahrzehnten

Die Havarie eines Frachters in einer malerischen Bucht hat in Neuseeland Ängste vor der "größten Umweltkatastrophe seit Jahrzehnten" geweckt. Davon wären unter anderem Wale, Delfine und Pinguine betroffen. In der Nähe des havarierten Schiffes vor der Nordinsel des Landes wurden bereits ein fünf Kilometer langer Öl-Film sowie mehrere tote Vögel entdeckt.

July 25th, 2011
PRME Initiative Helps Root Responsible Management Education in Australia and New Zealand

PRME Initiative Helps Root Responsible Management Education in Australia and New Zealand (Sydney) – With over half of Australia’s business schools in attendance, the 1st Australia/New Zealand PRME Forum helped establish the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative more firmly among universities and

November 18th, 2010
259 Investors Representing $15 Trillion Call for International Action on Climate Change

Statement Calls for Policies to Unlock the Vast Potential of Low-Carbon Markets and Avoid Economic Devastation Caused by Climate Change (London) – The world's largest global investors have a powerful message for climate negotiators in Cancún and all national governments: Take action now in

August 30th, 2010
Business Ethics in China

There are significant problems with business ethics in the world’s second biggest economy, China. Witness the recent scandals involving tainted milk powder. Before that, lead paint used in toys was the big issue. Last year, there was a scandal involving injecting water into meat to increase its weight. And it’s not just a matter of [...]

March 4th, 2010
New issue of Business Ethics: A European Review (volume 19, 1)

The resent issue of the Business Ethics: A European Review (volume 19, 1) contains: Sector-based corporate citizenship, by Timonen, L. and Luoma-aho, V. , in: Business Ethics: A European Review, volume 19, number 1, pages 1-13. Corporate responsibility perceptions in change: Finnish managers' views

June 15th, 2009

Massey University, Albany Campus, Auckland, New Zealand 12 -13 November, 2009 Purpose The social, environmental, economic and cultural aspects of sustainability have never been more relevant to the understanding of management and organizations. Recent years have witnessed an explosion of interest, research and debate

November 18th, 2008
CSR’s Midas Touch

Buried Treasure: Discovering and Implementing the Value of Corporate Social Responsibility By Caleb Wall (Sheffield, UK: Greenleaf Publishing, 2008) A review by William C. Frederick, November 2008 This book speaks directly to the business mind—and refreshingly

December 15th, 2006
Westpac publishes Stakeholder Impact Report 2006 – ReportAlert.info

Westpac has released its sixth non-financial Stakeholder Impact Report, available via http://www.reportalert.info/ra/Westpac141206.htm The 2006 report is based on the 'G3' GRI guidelines, and sets out Westpac's extended performance in building human, social and environmental capital. It also includes contributions from a number of thought

December 12th, 2006
Insurance Australia Group publishes Sustainability Report 2006 – ReportAlert.info

Insurance Australia Group (IAG) released its third Sustainability Report entitled, "A Single Person Can Make a World of Difference" on Wednesday 15 November. The report details major risks and opportunities facing IAG and has been released in both a concise version (hardcopy and

November 8th, 2006
2006 Corruption Perceptions Index

2006 Corruption Perceptions Index reinforces link between poverty and corruption Shows the machinery of corruption remains well-oiled, despite improved legislation Berlin, 6 November 2006 - The 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), launched today by Transparency International (TI), points to a strong correlation between corruption and

August 24th, 2006

London 21st August 2006 - economie, the international organisation dedicated to the education, promotion and development of Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) worldwide, today announced that Colin Baines of the Cooperative Group and Esther Garcia of DNV UK will be speaking at its flagship

June 5th, 2006
SRI event eco6 9th and 10th October 2006

ISLAMIC AND ETHICAL FINANCE TAKES THE STAGE AT CONFERENCE FOR SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE INVESTMENT Dr Humayon Dar Delivers Keynote at economie’s Flagship International SRI Event eco6 London, 5th June, 2006 – economie, the international organisation dedicated to the education, promotion and development of socially responsible investment

June 1st, 2006

economie Announces UK’s First online SRI Course and Exam London, 1st June 2006, – economie, the international organisation dedicated to the education, promotion and development of socially responsible investment (SRI) worldwide, today announced the availability of the UK’s first SRI on line examination

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