When we think of modern slavery, it’s easy to picture it as an issue confined to distant corners of the world, but the grim reality is that modern slavery exists much closer to home. When then go on to look to people in work who are being paid below the minimum amount they are legally entitled too, the problem definitely comes home.

A report from the Low Pay Commission revealed that approximately 335,000 workers in the UK were paid less than the minimum wage in 2022. According to the Global Slavery Index, there were up to 122,000 people trapped in modern slavery in the UK alone in 2022. In the United States, the situation is similarly distressing. The Global Slavery Index estimates that there are 1.1 million people living in conditions of modern slavery. Canada and Australia are not immune either. The same index identifies nearly 69,000 potential victims in Canada and approximately 17,000 people living in modern slavery conditions in Australia.

Modern slavery, as defined by governments worldwide, encompasses a range of exploitative practices. These include human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, and child slavery. These practices persist not only in remote corners of the globe, but are woven into the supply chains of businesses operating in our local communities.

Currently, only businesses with a turnover of £36 million or more are required under the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 to publish a modern slavery statement. This legislation is designed to increase transparency within supply chains and propel companies to take responsibility for reducing modern slavery. Similar laws exist in Australia and California, but many regions have lagged behind. However, things are changing, for example Canada has legislation due to come into effect in 2024.

The responsibility of businesses extends beyond just legal compliance. It’s this understanding that drove SocialOptic, despite being below the threshold, to publish our own modern slavery statement and also to sign up for the Living Wage Foundation‘s initiative, committing to pay a wage that meets the real cost of living. These actions reflect our belief in fair pay for fair work, and our commitment to ensuring the dignity and respect of all individuals who contribute to our business, wherever they are in the supply chain.

We do so in the hope that other businesses, regardless of size or location, to join us. Let’s scrutinize our supply chains, ask the difficult questions, and work to ensure our operations do not contribute to violations of human rights or propagate unfair pay. We would very much like to hear about your experiences or thoughts on this issue. How is your organization tackling modern slavery? Are there ways that we collaborate to end modern slavery? Let’s create a dialogue and together, continue to raise awareness, to make a tangible difference.