How Data, Collaboration and Awareness Can End Modern Slavery Forever

Modern slavery is a global, complex and constantly evolving crime. As a result, consumers, businesses, governments and NGOs must co-operate with one another in order to combat it. Multifaceted approaches, which leverage empirical data, improve collaboration and develop the public consciousness of modern slavery, are key to success. And now, we are closer than ever before to building a foundational strategy to end this brutal practice for good.

When senior politicians, police, business leaders, border force officials and media representatives gathered to mark the release of the second annual Modern Slavery Helpline Assessment at the House of Commons on Wednesday 24th April, this was made abundantly clear. With calls to the Helpline prompting 2280 referrals to police and other agencies last year – a 58% increase on the numbers from 2017 – more people are recognising victims and perpetrators and modern slavery than ever before.

The challenge now is to build on these foundations and tackle the structural problems behind the crime. And only by creating a society which does not demand goods and services that are simply too cheap can we achieve this.

The data

Data is key to understanding the crime of modern slavery. Policy relating to it has not always been driven by empirical data, making effectively tackling the problem a huge challenge. Providing extensive information on both potential victims (PVs) and potential exploiters (PEs), including the relationships between them, their nationality, gender and the type of forced labour they are engaged in, the Assessment represents a significant step towards directing informed approaches which can help to end modern slavery.

Smart approaches now are particularly critical, with budgets stretched and Brexit looming. The only way to sustain them is to continue developing a co-dependant ecosystem, which emphasises the responsibility of all individuals and sectors to play their part in the battles that are still to come.

The collaboration

There is clearly a will to consolidate and expand on the relationships that have already been fostered through the Modern Slavery Helpline. The Unseen App, for example, has been already been downloaded onto the handsets of the North Wales Police along with many other constabularies, allowing officers to effectively spot the signs of modern slavery on the ground.

Darren Jones, Labour MP for Bristol North West, who hosted the Commons event, previously backed Unseen’s “Let’s Nail It” campaign by wearing red nail varnish as he spoke in Parliament. Dedicated Helpline workers keep a 24/7, 365 days-a-year service available to anyone who thinks they may have spotted or be a victim of modern slavery, before signposting them to the relevant authorities.

Tech Against Trafficking, a coalition led by BT, Microsoft and Nokia, are using their digital expertise to end the crime. H&M recently moved to list supplier names for all garments and promote transparency in their supply chain. Now, we need consumers to demand these high standards across the board.

The awareness

More people are aware that nail bars and car washes can be hotbeds of exploitation, making them take their business elsewhere. Nationally, we are starting to see more modern slavery convictions, such as this one in Bristol, as the 2015 Modern Slavery Act is put into use.

But a true Eureka moment is yet to come – and there are few guarantees that the things we buy in supermarkets, high street shops and online are not procured through illegally cheap, forced labour somewhere along the supply chain. Indeed, it is estimated that we depend on between 40-60 modern slaves to maintain our lifestyles.

Only by taking ownership of this generational challenge and changing the way we behave as consumers can we build these foundations into a movement which ends modern slavery forever.

Find out more about modern slavery here