On 24 May 2023 the fifth Global Slavery Index (GSI) was released. The GSI presents national estimates of modern slavery for 160 countries, providing deep insight into the scale and composition of modern slavery today. The GSI also points to solutions.
In this paper, we summarise the key findings of the 2023 GSI. For example:
- An estimated 50 million people are in slavery today, marking a 25% increase over five years. 27.6 million are in forced labour.
- Whilst the prevalence of slavery in G20 countries is low, this masks their responsibility. US$468bn of G20 imported goods are at risk of modern slavery. Nearly two-thirds of all forced labour cases are connected to global supply chains.
We ask, in response to this surging humanitarian challenge, what are governments requiring of companies with regards to human rights due diligence now and in the near future?
To that end, we provide an overview of legislation targeting the activities of companies - their operations and their supply chains - with respect to human rights due diligence.
Worldwide, there are now more than 20 legislative or quasi-legislative measures that involve or require some kind of modern slavery reporting either directly, or in the context of broader ESG issues.
We offer this brief summary of both implemented and planned reporting obligations to demonstrate that this is an area of corporate governance that is only expected to expand and place further, more substantive obligations on businesses that have any kind of international presence. In light of the increasing emphasis on human rights supply chain due diligence and legislation being enacted, companies are likely to either already complete more rigorous disclosure or will be required to do so in the foreseeable future. We have also included key findings from the report on the statutory review of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) released 25 May 2023.
In sum, this paper provides an overview regarding the state of modern slavery globally and the legislative regimes developing in response to the clear need for human rights due diligence along the supply chain. It is not exhaustive but offers timely guidance.
The urgent rationale for this paper lies in the following observations from the 2023 GSI:
“Businesses have increasingly complex global supply chains that lack transparency of who is working where and under what conditions. Too often this works to their advantage, by failing to meaningfully engage with modern slavery risks, businesses can turn a blind eye, avoid remediation and continue to place profit over people.”