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October 18, 2022

UK’s BSI issues guidance to eradicate modern slavery

The UK’s national standards body BSI has launched what it claims is the world’s first national standard to help organisations within the UK and globally to eradicate modern slavery in their supply chains.

By Michelle Russell

The new standard: ‘BS 25700 Organizational Responses to Modern Slavery’, for use by international and UK organisations of all sizes, provides guidance on preventative measures, identifying, analysing, and evaluating exposure risks, approaches to address identified risks, remedying modern slavery practices, and reporting mechanisms.

Launched today (18 October) for Anti-Slavery Day, BSI says it hopes the new guidance will help organisations eradicate modern slavery in all forms.

“Global disruptions such as the pandemic and the return of war in Europe have created greater risks of modern slavery than those faced in 2015 when the Modern Slavery Act was enacted,” says Susan Taylor Martin, CEO, BSI. “Far more can be done to bridge the gap between policy and practice. BSI is committed to helping organisations understand what they can do in practical terms to eradicate this corrupt, criminal behaviour which continues to plague the global economy.”

Organisations are facing increased scrutiny over supply chain issues and their commitment to ensuring the wellbeing of people and planet and Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) reporting, BSI says. The modern slavery standard (BS 25700) provides “much needed guidance” for them to help identify risks, and the potential victims, of modern slavery, while offering pragmatic advice on how to address the issue.

In a pioneering move, the new standard will be available to all on an open-access basis.

Modern slavery describes a range of exploitative practices, including forced, compulsory and child labour, debt bondage and human trafficking. Rights and duties concerning modern slavery exist in UK legislation, notably through the Modern Slavery Act 2015, as well as through international frameworks including the United Nations and International Labour Organization (ILO).

The criminal practice affected 49.6 million people worldwide in 2021, according to estimates from Walk Free, the ILO and the International Organization for Migration, with 27.6 million people in forced labour. Criminals profiting from this make approximately US$150bn annually from the proceeds of these crimes.

“Too many organisations, large and small, may not fully understand the prevalence and locations of modern slavery in their supply chains and they may also lack knowledge on how to protect themselves from its risks,” adds Scott Steedman, director-general standards, BSI. “With this new National Standard BSI is providing much-needed guidance to help organisations act decisively to understand, identify risks, and eradicate modern slavery.”

As the National Standards Body in the UK, BSI helps businesses to adopt best practice frameworks aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including supporting organisations in understanding and managing the risks of modern slavery.  It aims to bridge the gap between policy and practice – with a lack of compliance, inadequate modern slavery statements and gaps between what organisations say and do on the issue undermining existing requirements laid out in the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

In addition, whereas existing legislation requires organisations with an annual turnover of GBP36m (US$40.7m) or more to report on modern slavery, BS 25700 can be used by organisations of any size or type, which BSI says is critical given SMEs make up 99% of businesses and three-fifths of employment in the UK.

Click here to access the guidance.

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