Although modern slavery is considered to be an international problem, it is still a huge issue across the UK. The countries multi-billion-pound fashion industry employs tens of thousands of people every year, which can make its companies extremely vulnerable to unscrupulous providers and criminals who exploit workers for their labour. But as the government cracks down on forced labour, and shines a light on hidden victims, by encouraging 17,000 businesses across the country to open up about their ethical practices, it has become more prevalent than ever that companies need to have a strong depth of insight into their logistics processes and their suppliers.
While 60% of companies have published a statement, some of them have failed to meet basic legal requirements. Knowing the growing concerns around modern slavery and ethical products, these retailers should now be trying to make their supply chains more transparent than ever. Fail to do so, and they run the risk of unknowingly selling items that have been produced in unethical conditions to consumers who are actively trying to choose products that fight against them. This could not only have an incremental impact on their footfall, but will put them in the firing line of both the government and the police.
In order to combat this and provide in-depth product information, such as the country a products raw materials were sourced from, or the name of the factory (and the factories it outsources to) that a product is made in, retailers need to invest in more thorough processes. The includes conducting stringent factory audits and tracking each stage of every individual product’s journey, right the way from production to sale. As well as putting strong monitoring processes in place, there also needs to be a greater focus on supplier relationship management. Retailers are under even greater pressure from the consumer to provide the highest quality, lowest priced and biggest range of products, however this shouldn’t be provided at the cost of ethical practices. In order to avoid suppliers resorting to crooked processes, retailers need to have an agreement in place with suppliers that ensure quality, safe procedures are their priority, not rock bottom costs and vast quantities.
As the government clamps down on ethical practices, retailers should see this as an opportunity to transform their business processes for the better. Now is the time for all businesses to get their house in order when it comes to supplier visibility, factory audits and ethical trading, because both consumers and the government are using this as a key area when it comes to the decision making process and those who can’t prove themselves will be the ones that fall behind.