Wax Digital: We need to do more to raise awareness of modern slavery
When you hear the term ’modern slavery’, what image does it conjure up? Is it a picture of people in chains, having their freedom stripped away from them and being forced to work against their will?
Modern slavery, in almost all its forms, is far less visible than that age-old trope. In fact, slavery in the UK is rife – it’s just you don’t see it when going about your day - and the statistics back this up.
According to figures from the National Crime Agency (NCA), approximately 13,000 people are slaves in the UK. But leading charity Anti-Slavery suggests that figure is much higher, with their estimates placing the figure at just over 100,000.
Here just a few examples of where modern slavery exists in the UK:
Catching chickens in squalid conditions
One high profile case that came to light a few years ago involved the use of scores of Lithuanian migrants, lured to the UK on the promise of a better life. The migrants were used as chicken catchers and egg collectors, and claimed they were victims of violence, being debt-bonded on immediate arrival in the UK, deprived of food, sleep and basic accommodation. They were also forced to urinate and defecate into carrier bags as they worked.
Eventually, the case was settled for over £1 million in compensation after a high court ruling found the employers to be guilty of failing to pay the minimum wage, making unlawful deductions from their pay and failing to provide adequate provision to eat, drink and rest. Supermarkets, such as Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and others immediately boycotted the supplier because of the way it treated their staff.
Washing cars for below minimum wage
Hand car washes (HCW) have exploded in popularity in the UK. Government research estimates that there are between 10,000 and 20,000 across the nation and have replaced thousands of the automated car washing machines previously seen on petrol forecourts. As their popularity soars, reports of their business practices have drawn attention.
Once again, as with the previous example, illicit HCWs take advantage of vulnerable people, with most slaves hailing from Eastern European countries and those based in the Balkans.
While most of these car washes are perfectly legitimate businesses, there are some that are not. It is difficult to put a figure on the exact number of hand car washes that use slaves, however, if a car wash charges £5 or less for a job, the economics simply don’t add up. It would be impossible according to research submitted to the environmental audit committee (EAC) for a HCW to turn a profit at £5 a job, with the typical staff and supplies required to run the business.
The Clewer Initiative has created a smartphone app, to help you report illicit HCWS. So far, the organisation has passed on thousands of suspected cases onto the authorities.
Making beds for £20 a week
Modern slavery isn’t just isolated to chickens and car washes. A high-profile case from February 2016, saw a bed manufacturing business in Dewsbury employ large numbers of Hungarian workers, who according to police had no contracts, no rights and were exploited terribly.
The victims were working over 60-hour weeks, for as little as £20, as well as being forced to live in squalid living conditions. Their accommodation comprised of being crammed into multi-occupancy rooms and threatened with violence if they complained.
The bed manufacturer supplied its products to leading high street department stores, but their ethical audits failed to spot that their supplier was employing the slaves and that they were being subjected to such horrific abuse.
Fighting modern slavery
Fighting slavery is an extremely challenging process. It’s difficult to spot because most people who are in slavery are under duress and are usually reluctant to identify as a victim. But there are things you can do, and we’ve produced a list of tactics your organisation could consider:
1 – Check your supply chain in detail
By far, the most effective tool at our disposal to fight modern slavery is carefully monitoring and acting within our supply chains. Supply chains are often complex and difficult to analyse but it is imperative that you take a close look at them, find out exactly where all your goods and services come from, what organisations are responsible for doing and how they produce the raw materials or services that you ultimately sell or use.
Only once you’ve gathered all this information can you put together a plan of action detailing how you intend to fight modern slavery. It could involve issuing your suppliers with a clear checklist, detailing the areas in their operations where you need evidence of how they are mitigating modern slavery in their supply chains.
2 – Comply with The Modern Slavery Act 2015
The UK government passed laws in March 2015 to tackle modern slavery in the UK. Any business with a turnover exceeding £36 million, must produce a slavery and human trafficking statement. In this document, businesses must report on their supply chains; policies on modern slavery and human trafficking; identify risk of modern slavery and steps taken to mitigate that risk; staff training and capacity to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking.
3 – Consider trying to raise awareness yourself
One way to fight modern slavery is to raise awareness of the practice. Many people won’t have heard of the examples we’ve mentioned in this article, so perhaps hold an awareness session internally to discuss it openly with your colleagues.
It was frustrating to discover that 62% of employees know nothing about the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and only 20% could say that their employer has a modern slavery statement. We recently surveyed over 500 people to assess awareness and understanding of modern slavery and it’s clear that businesses need to take more responsibility in the fight against it. Only by raising awareness can we contribute to the fight to end the practice for good.
Daniel Ball is a Business Development Director at Wax Digital, a Manchester-based supplier of eProcurement solutions to Enterprise and Midsize businesses.
NTT DATA Services, Remodelling Supply Chains for Resilience
Joey Dean, the man with the coolest name ever and Managing Director in the healthcare consulting practice for NTT DATA and is focused on delivering workplace transformation and enabling the future workforce for healthcare providers. Dean also leads client innovation programs to enhance service delivery and business outcomes for clients.
The pandemic has shifted priorities and created opportunities to do things differently, and companies are now looking to build more resilient supply chains, none needed more urgently than those within the healthcare system. Dean shares with us how he feels they can get there.
A Multi-Vendor Sourcing Approach
“Healthcare systems cannot afford delays in the supply chain when there are lives at stake. Healthcare procurement teams are looking at multi-vendor sourcing strategies, stockpiling more inventory, and ways to use data and AI to have a predictive view into the future and drive greater efficiency.
“The priority should be to shore up procurement channels and re-evaluate inventory management norms, i.e. stockpiling for assurance. Health systems should take the opportunity to renegotiate with their current vendors and broaden the supplier channel. Through those efforts, work with suppliers that have greater geographic diversity and transparency around manufacturing data, process, and continuity plans,” says Dean.
But here ensues the never-ending battle of domestic vs global supply chains. As I see it, domestic sourcing limits the high-risk exposure related to offshore sourcing— Canada’s issue with importing the vaccine is a good example of that. So, of course, I had to ask, for lifesaving products, is building domestic capabilities an option that is being considered?
“Domestic supply chains are sparse or have a high dependence on overseas centres for parts and raw materials. There are measures being discussed from a legislative perspective to drive more domestic sourcing, and there will need to be a concerted effort by Western countries through a mix of investments and financial incentives,” Dean explains.
Wielding Big Tech for Better Outcomes
So, that’s a long way off. In the meantime, leveraging technology is another way to mitigate the risks that lie within global supply chains while decreasing costs and improving quality. Dean expands on the potential of blockchain and AI in the industry.
“Blockchain is particularly interesting in creating more transparency and visibility across all supply chain activities. Organisations can create a decentralised record of all transactions to track assets from production to delivery or use by end-user. This increased supply chain transparency provides more visibility to both buyers and suppliers to resolve disputes and build more trusting relationships. Another benefit is that the validation of data is more efficient to prioritise time on the delivery of goods and services to reduce cost and improve quality.
“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) is another area where there’s incredible value in processing massive amounts of data to aggregate and normalise the data to produce proactive recommendations on actions to improve the speed and cost-efficiency of the supply chain.”
Evolving Procurement Models
From asking more of suppliers to beefing up stocks, Dean believes procurement models should be remodelled to favour resilience, mitigate risk and ensure the needs of the customer are kept in view.
“The bottom line is that healthcare systems are expecting more from their suppliers. While transactional approaches focused solely on price and transactions have been the norm, collaborative relationships, where the buyer and supplier establish mutual objectives and outcomes, drives a trusting and transparent relationship. Healthcare systems are also looking to multi-vendor strategies to mitigate risk, so it is imperative for suppliers to stand out and embrace evolving procurement models.
“Healthcare systems are looking at partners that can establish domestic centres for supplies to mitigate the risks of having ‘all of their eggs’ in overseas locations. Suppliers should look to perform a strategic evaluation review that includes a distribution network analysis and distribution footprint review to understand cost, service, flexibility, and risks. Included in that strategy should be a “voice of the customer” assessment to understand current pain points and needs of customers.”
“Healthcare supply chain leaders are re-evaluating the Just In Time (JIT) model with supplies delivered on a regular basis. The approach does not require an investment in infrastructure but leaves organisations open to risk of disruption. Having domestic centres and warehousing from suppliers gives healthcare systems the ability to have inventory on hand without having to invest in their own infrastructure. Also, in the spirit of transparency, having predictive views into inventory levels can help enable better decision making from both sides.”
But, again, I had to ask, what about the risks and associated costs that come with higher inventory levels, such as expired product if there isn’t fast enough turnover, tying up cash flow, warehousing and inventory management costs?
“In the current supply chain environment, it is advisable for buyers to carry an in-house inventory on a just-in-time basis, while suppliers take a just-in-case approach, preserving capacity for surges, retaining safety stock, and building rapid replenishment channels for restock. But the risk of expired product is very real. This could be curbed with better data intelligence and improved technology that could forecast surges and predictively automate future supply needs. In this way, ordering would be more data-driven and rationalised to align with anticipated surges. Further adoption of data and intelligence and will be crucial for modernised buying in the new normal.
These are tough tasks, so I asked Dean to speak to some of the challenges. Luckily, he’s a patient guy with a lot to say.
On managing stakeholders and ensuring alignment on priorities and objectives, Dean says, “In order for managing stakeholders to stay aligned on priorities, they’ll need more transparency and collaborative win-win business relationships in which both healthcare systems and medical device manufacturers are equally committed to each other’s success. On the healthcare side, they need to understand where parts and products are manufactured to perform more predictive data and analytics for forecasting and planning efforts. And the manufacturers should offer more data transparency which will result in better planning and forecasting to navigate the ebbs and flows and enable better decision-making by healthcare systems.
Due to the sensitive nature of the information being requested, the effort to increase visibility is typically met with a lot of reluctance and push back. Dean essentially puts the onus back on suppliers to get with the times. “Traditionally, the relationships between buyers and suppliers are transactional, based only on the transaction between the two parties: what is the supplier providing, at what cost, and for what length of time. The relationship begins and ends there. The tide is shifting, and buyers expect more from their suppliers, especially given what the pandemic exposed around the fragility of the supply chain. The suppliers that get ahead of this will not only reap the benefits of improved relationships, but they will be able to take action on insights derived from greater visibility to manage risks more effectively.”
He offers a final tip. “A first step in enabling a supply chain data exchange is to make sure partners and buyers are aware of the conditions throughout the supply chain based on real-time data to enable predictive views into delays and disruptions. With well understand data sets, both parties can respond more effectively and work together when disruptions occur.”
As for where supply chain is heading, Dean says, “Moving forward, we’ll continue to see a shift toward Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and advanced analytics to optimise the supply chain. The pandemic, as it has done in many other industries, will accelerate the move to digital, with the benefits of improving efficiency, visibility, and error rate. AI can consume enormous amounts of data to drive real-time pattern detection and mitigate risk from global disruptive events.”