In this five-part podcast series, sponsored by Assent Compliance Inc. (Assent), I explore market impacts of emerging regulations on supply chain compliance and the supply chain professional. During the course of this series, I visit with several members of the Assent team to introduce the topic, look at Human Trafficking and Slavery (HTS), supply chain risk management programs, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) value propositions, the current state of responsible mineral sourcing and scaling up to meet future challenges. In episode one, I visit with Kate Dunbar, Senior Business & Human Rights Analyst and subject matter expert (SME) in HTS, on the current and evolving HTS landscape.

We begin with a review of the current landscape of HTS legislation and where it may well be headed. Interestingly, since 2015, there has been between one and three laws related to human trafficking and slavery enacted each year. This has added many legal requirements which companies must understand, manage and comply with going forward. Dunbar explained these regulations fall into three general types.

The first is transparency laws. Under transparency laws, companies are required to  scope and disclose what efforts, if any, they are taking to address the issue of modern slavery, both in their operations and supply chain. She provided several examples of this type of HTS legislation. The first of this kind was the “California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which came out in 2012. Next is the UK Modern Slavery Act which came out in 2015. Recently, you would have the Australian Modern Slavery Act.” These are all examples of transparency laws.

The second type of laws are what Dunbar referred to as trade laws, which are mainly coming out of the US. In the US it is illegal to transport persons for work without pay, whether in the sex trade or any other industry. Of course, transporting persons for the sex trade is also illegal. It is also prohibited to import goods into the US that have been made with forced labor or child labor. Dunbar noted, “if you are a company that sells or imports goods into the US the onus is on you to conduct due diligence, to be able to show enforcement agencies that your goods weren’t made involving those human rights violations.”

The third type of regulations related to HTS generally are what are called mandatory human rights due diligence laws. Dunbar believes, “in many ways this is the most interesting and, at the end of the day, may be the most effective because it demonstrates the move from transparency laws (name and shame) and now we are moving towards mandatory due diligence.” These due diligence laws obligate companies to take robust action to identify and mitigate risks of human trafficking and other human rights violations from within a supply chain.

Most interestingly, the first country to enact this type of law was France. They call it the  “Duty of Vigilance Law.” The European Union (EU) itself is looking at moving towards this type of law on a continent-wide basis and, as Dunbar related, several other EU countries such as Germany, Italy and Sweden are all considering enacting their own version of a mandatory human rights’ due diligence law. Finally, Dunbar related there is a United Nations (UN) working group on business and human rights which is pushing for this type of legislation as well.

I asked Dunbar how a supply chain compliance professional can take this information regarding these types of laws and then synthesize these requirements into a compliance program? She related the key is to not simply human trafficking slavery as a pure compliance topic because to do so and you are “missing half the picture.” Dunbar recommends, “looking at the broad array of requirements and expectations, not just from a regulatory point of view, but also customer,  investor and consumer point of view. Take input from your important stakeholders as to what they are expecting and requiring of you as a business and use that information to build your compliance and due diligence.”

Dunbar believes what an organization needs is a “defensible process when it stands up to scrutiny and that is consistent. Such an approach enables you to take more targeted action and protect your business. In a nutshell, it’s really about getting the information from your suppliers that you need and taking appropriate action based on that data so that you can, you can protect your business.”

Join us tomorrow where provide an overview of instituting a broader supplier risk management program. You can check out more about Assent Compliance Inc. by clicking here.