Is your supply chain Christmas ready?

During the festive period, modern slavery risk can increase in businesses. Follow best practice to minimise harm along your supply chain during Christmas time.
women sorting through fruit at the supermarket

Supply chains at Christmas are often chaotic, with demand for goods and services increasing drastically during the winter season. Businesses are under pressure to deliver faster, with minimal error, to meet people’s time-sensitive shopping demands.

But prompt delivery is dependent on many factors, including people. Increased demand fuels the need for temporary and seasonal labour and causes the potential for incidences of exploitation to rise significantly.

While it’s important to prepare and manage your supply chain to benefit your business and consumers, you also have a responsibility to ensure your workers are safe and modern slavery risks are minimised.

Here are 5 practical ways you can minimise the risk of modern slavery in your business this Christmas and beyond.

1. Use the right labour provider

Temporary workers are often at higher risk of exploitation, especially migrant workers. But during peak periods with high demand for services, this risk increases further. Businesses can mitigate this risk by using a reputable agency for temporary labour, ensuring they are GLAA licenced.

Best practice would be to combine this with spot check audits of your right-to-work processes and that of your labour provider.

2. Have a robust induction process

Many exploiters prey on a lack of knowledge when it comes to workers’ rights and correct processes.

Having a clear induction process covering employment rights and company policies and processes (such as having no recruitment fee for workers) can help prevent this risk.

Consider providing key policies in native languages to ensure workers fully understand what’s expected and feel integrated into the company.

3. Provide an easy to reach reporting route

A report by the University of Liverpool suggests that supply chain discovery and reporting practices are widely underdeveloped, leading to increasing risks of unidentified cases of modern slavery.

Part of the reason for this is a gap between policy and practice. Implementing clear reporting and escalation procedures is vital to bridging this gap.

Every worker should know how to report concerns, and there should be an accessible way to do so. Ideally, this should be anonymous and confidential.

Any reporting route should be shared widely, and staff should be able to access it independently. Putting posters up with this information in places that are accessed by all staff, but are private, such as staff loos, is encouraged.

If any one of your employees is concerned about something along your supply chain, they should be informed of what to do, and any potential problems can be resolved before they manifest.

4. Supply chain transparency

Supply chain transparency is a long-term, continuous process that can feel overwhelming to tackle, as a whole.

An effective place to start is to undertake a supplier mapping exercise. Mapping is not an overnight process but it does help you gain clarity about how far down the supply chain you have visibility and to what detail.

Map out your network of tier 1 suppliers by key data points (such as geography and sector) and expand to include their suppliers, and their suppliers, and so on. Often this can be done through a single data platform, making analysis, overall management, and information storage much easier.

Mapping your supply chain helps to reduce modern slavery risk – which can be exacerbated over the festive period – by increasing visibility and helping pin-point higher-risk suppliers.

It’s best to not just map your supply chain when problems are suspected, but as part of ongoing best practice. This way, you will be far better informed of potential risks of modern slavery.

5. A good relationship with your suppliers is key

Building strong relationships with your suppliers is crucial.

When you build strong and lasting relationships with your suppliers, your knowledge of their operations can become much richer, and it becomes that bit easier to ensure better labour practices.

A good rapport also makes processes more cohesive and honest, which ultimately helps your operations run more smoothly.

It also helps protect your organisation from reputational damage, which could come from any mal-practice going unreported.

This will make liaising over the Christmas period as efficient as it can be. You can be fully aware of any issues, such as those relating to stock or delivery times, and respond quicker – without cutting corners.

Get expert support this festive season

Do you need support and guidance to tackle modern slavery within your supply chain? Get in touch with Unseen Business today for expert advice and guidance in avoiding modern slavery risk this Christmas.

Related stories

Justine Currell

As I came to understand more about the issue, including through a visit to an Unseen safehouse, I knew I needed to do more to stop this abuse and exploitation.

For the last five years of my Civil Service career, I was the Modern Slavery Senior Policy Advisor in the Home Office and led on development of the Modern Slavery Act, including the transparency in supply chains provision and business guidance.

I joined Unseen to lead the development of the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline, and Unseen’s work with businesses. I am regularly called upon to present at national and international conferences and use my experience of working with Ministers to influence other governments internationally to take action to address modern slavery and, in particular, business supply chain issues.

In my spare time I enjoy keeping fit, music, reading and travelling.

Andrew Wallis

What ultimately compelled me to act was a report on how people from Eastern Europe were being trafficked through Bristol airport to the USA. Kate Garbers, who went on to be an Unseen Director, and I wrote to all the city councillors, MPs and the Police Chief Constable challenging them on the issue. The challenge came back to us: this city needs safe housing for trafficked women. And so Unseen began.

But we never wanted Unseen to be just about safe housing. We wanted to end slavery once and for all, and that remains our driving focus.

I chaired the working group for the Centre for Social Justice’s landmark report “It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to Fight Modern Slavery”. This is now acknowledged as the catalyst behind the UK’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015. It was a great honour to be awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours that year. On the other hand, I’ve also been described as “the loveliest disrupter you could ever hope to meet”.

This job has taken me from building flat-pack furniture for safehouses, to working with businesses to address slavery in supply chains, to delivering training, raising awareness and advising governments around the world.

When not at work, I enjoy travelling, spending time with my dog Harley, cooking, supporting Liverpool and Yorkshire CC, music (I’m a former DJ) and endurance events such as the Three Peaks Challenge and Tribe Freedom Runs – which I vow never to do again. Until the next time.