By Aisha Aswani, Senior Human Rights & Ethical Trade Manager

On Monday 18 October, it’s Anti-Slavery Day. A national day that aims to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery around the world.

Modern slavery can happen anywhere, and anyone can become a victim. The pure scale of the problem can be overwhelming. The International Labour Organisation estimates 40 million people are victims of modern slavery globally. The Global Slavery Index estimates there are 136,000 potential victims in the UK on any given day.

Modern slavery is a complicated issue. Every day, people are being exploited both globally and in the UK. It’s indiscriminate and can affect absolutely anyone, including your family, friends, colleagues, or strangers you might pass in the street. It comes in many forms – including forced labour, debt bondage, trafficking, or servitude. 

I’m pleased to say that we have a long-standing commitment to protecting the human rights of people in our global supply chain and operations. We welcomed the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015 and are committed to providing an open and honest account of what we’re doing to prevent modern slavery in our supply chains and business. Every year we write a Modern Slavery statement that explains our work to prevent modern slavery and support victims.

Read more about our approach to truly ethical trading and how we tackle modern slavery in our food supply chains.

We can all play our part in fighting this issue. Your actions can help save lives. Please have a read of our ‘spot the signs’ poster, which outlines how to identify situations and victims of modern slavery. 

How we act to prevent modern slavery

We all have a responsibility to prevent slavery in any form throughout our business. Take our Food supply chain, for instance. There could be hundreds of workers involved to get one product on our shelves. We need to make sure we’re protecting every single one of them. 

While we’ve worked hard to put processes in place with our suppliers to protect workers, modern slavery cases can be challenging to address and difficult to find. As part of our commitment to supply chain transparency, we’ve disclosed details of our Co-op Food own-brand direct supplying sites, along with worker data – click here to view. For us, uncovering cases is a success. It shows that our suppliers have found victims and helped them find a way out. We’re also a founding member of the Modern Slavery Intelligence Network and joined Unseen’s Helpline Business Portal to improve our ability to identify issues and hear from workers directly.

We’ve a robust Ethical Trade audit monitoring programme that covers all Co-op branded products. Where issues are identified through ethical audits, we work with suppliers to find solutions. But we know audits can only go so far. That’s why we have a global supplier engagement programme packed with training and learning events for our suppliers to develop the capacity to deal with the issue. You can read more about how we protect workers in our supply chains.

If you’d like to find out more, please contact the Ethical Trade team.