UK-based online fashion retailer ASOS has partnered with the British High Commission to host an event in Mauritius today (22 February) to discuss ways of tackling modern slavery in the global supply chain.

Organised as part of Asos’s modern slavery commitments and coinciding with ongoing discussions between the Mauritian and Bangladeshi governments on labour migration and workers’ rights, the event takes place in Port Louis and includes presentations and talks from the Mauritian and Bangladeshi governments, the International Labour Organization, the IndustriAll union, the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and Anti-Slavery International.

It aims to bring together both local and international stakeholders to discuss the challenges in managing labour migration and agree a common framework for improving worker protection in Mauritius and beyond.

Also attending are executives from fashion brands who source from the island, including adidas, zLabels, Puma, Woolworths and Whistles.

Last year, Asos became the first e-commerce brand to sign a Global Framework Agreement (GFA) with the IndustriAll Global Union to protect the rights of workers who manufacture its own-brand products around the world.

Asos pledges to support worker rights across global supply chain

It also released its first Modern Slavery Statement in line with UK legislation, in which it demonstrated its commitment to eradicating modern slavery from its supply chain.

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Following reviews of all 11 factories in Asos’s Mauritian supply chain with labour rights organisation Verité, Mauritius was highlighted in the statement as an area of risk with evidence of systemic labour violations including debt bondage linked to the recruitment of migrant workers.

Simon Platts, sourcing director at Asos, said the hope is that by sharing experience and expertise, the event will encourage efforts to prevent exploitation during recruitment, and engage governments to effectively enforce legislation to protect migrant workers.

“Ultimately we believe this collective approach will help to protect the rights of workers in Mauritius, particularly those who are most vulnerable,” he adds.

The British High Commission is supporting this event as part of the UK’s agenda to tackle Modern Slavery, a top foreign policy priority for Prime Minister Theresa May.

British High Commissioner Keith Allan, who is speaking at the event, added: “The UK Government is committed to the eradication of all forms of forced labour and is supportive of initiatives to ensure that migrant workers working in factories and plants are not in situations of debt bondage.”

Meanwhile, will also co-host an event at the House of Lords in late March alongside Baroness Lola Young, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion and Anti-Slavery International to identify and address shared risks in the apparel sector for its supplier base.

Last year, Tara Luckman, fabric and sustainability manager at Asos, shared how visibility of the entire supply chain is the building block to both short and long-term progress in sustainability and ethical trade.

How Asos is embracing the challenge of transparency