Tuesday, 5 December 2017

On the back of his latest article Modern slavery and the supply chain, our Forensic Director David Lehmann caught up with Kimberly Randle from International Justice Mission to discuss modern slavery and its existence in supply chains around the world.

Video transcript


David Lehmann: Hi. I'm David Lehmann. I'm a director in the Forensic Practice of KordaMentha. Recently, we wrote an article about modern slavery, and to do that, we collaborated with the Australian chapter of International Justice Mission, and today, we're very lucky to have with us, Kimberly Randle, the Director of Corporate and Legal of IJMA. Kimberly, thanks very much for joining us today.

Kimberly Randle: Thanks so much for having me here, David.

David: Kimberly, when I did the research for the article, I was astounded at what I learned about modern slavery, and it's quite appalling. About 40 million people worldwide are subject to modern slavery. And whilst I undertook the article or the research for the article, I learned a lot more about IJMA. But for the purposes of the video or for the recording here today, would you be able to expand or tell us a little bit more about what IJMA does and also, in particular about modern slavery?

Kimberly: International Justice Mission is the world's largest anti-slavery organization. We partner with local authorities across the world in 17 countries to rescue victims, restore survivors, bring criminals to justice, and strengthen justice systems. The casework type that we deal with is modern day slavery, bonded labour, sex trafficking, labour trafficking, child sexual assault, property grabbing, and citizenship rights abuse.

David: Okay.  Having dealt with bribery and corruption for such a long time, one of the things that occurred to me when writing the article was the link between corruption and modern slavery. In other words, there's this exploitation of one person for the financial benefit of another. What's IJM's view on the link between the two?

Kimberly: Yes. So the United Nations estimates that 4 billion people live outside the protection of the law. What this means is that their public justice system is so broken that the police, courts, prosecutors are really offering poor and vulnerable no protection. An example of this may be if you or I were to call the police in Australia, we would expect that they would show up. They would then go interview suspects, charges would be laid, and prosecution may be made. What we're seeing in the developing world is that the public justice system is so broken: someone may try and call the police, they may not show up. They may be subjected to further abuse and exploitation by the police. So what IJM is doing is applying a really multi-faceted approach in those situations. So we're actually partnering with local authorities to rescue the victims, restore survivors, strengthen the justice system, and bring criminals to justice.

David: That being the case then, one of the things that we suggested in our article was that companies should adopt a multi-faceted approach to dealing with issue, and you just used the term yourself. What we were saying is that because of that that link with corruption, companies should consider perhaps using the UK Bribery Act Adequate Procedures Guidance. This includes things like top-level commitment, proportionate procedures, risk assessment, due diligence, communication and training, and monitoring and reviewing. So in relation to proportionate procedures, for example, we would expect that there would be a policy in place that gives guidance to stakeholders in the organization about this particular issue. In relation to tone at the top or top-level commitment, we would expect that the directors and the senior management within the organization would be giving all the right messages about the issue so that people clearly understand the direction of the organization. In respect of due diligence and risk assessment, really what we're talking about there is that the company makes its best efforts to gain some detail… some transparency about their supply chain. In respect of communication and training, we'd expect that, again this is something that would reinforce and reiterate what the company's message and stance is on modern slavery and ,last, with monitoring and review which, would be an ongoing aspect of the business, to make sure as business changes, we are aware of what is happening within the supply chain. So does IJM advocate a similar approach?

Kimberly: So we commend the multi-faceted approach being taken by companies. But what becomes really critical is what companies do when they find slavery in their supply chain. Accordingly, just a desktop approach to risk assessment may actually result in organizations becoming overly cautious and bearing too much of the responsibility of modern-day slavery in supply chains when, in fact, responsibility needs to be borne by the local government in the region where modern-day slavery is occurring. So what we're encouraging organizations to do is to actually invest in on the ground prevalence studies in the regions that they are investing in, in the regions that their suppliers are located in, and to engage organizations like IJM to conduct prevalence studies to find out where the holes are, to find out why in countries where there are laws against slavery, they simply aren't being enforced.

David: Okay coming back to the multi-faceted approach that we spoke about just a moment ago, it occurred to me when I was doing the research for the article that a lot of the principles within the Adequate Procedures Guidance in the UK Bribery Act are reflected in the United Nations Guiding Principles to Business and Human Rights. Are you seeing that corporations are adopting those principles in what they're doing in terms of this issue?

Kimberly: We're seeing a really big movement in Australia of corporations adopting those principles and undertaking really comprehensive due diligence and risk assessment which is fantastic. What we would like to see more of is what happens when organizations, as a result of the adoption of those principles, inevitably find slavery in their supply chains. One great example we've seen recently is the Walmart Foundation. We're hearing in the media reports of modern-day slavery on the Thai fishing waters. What hadn't been undertaken was a prevalence study in the region to actually find out what was occurring to workers in the Thai fishing industry and why there were these claims of modern-day slavery. So the Walmart Foundation, in partnership with  IJM, commissioned the Asara Institute to undertake this prevalence study and to actually spend several years on the ground in Thailand interviewing workers in the Thai fishing industry. What we found was that over 37% of those workers interviewed were subjected to trafficking conditions and this type of abuse was really common. So once that information had been obtained, the organization really had insight into what was happening and could address the issue having undertaken that really comprehensive due diligence from a completely innovative and ground-breaking angle, and we would really encourage organizations to take that approach when they're undertaking their due diligence.

David: Fantastic. As mentioned in our article, there's a push in Australia for the Australian Government to implement legislation around modern slavery: the Australian Modern Slavery Act similar to what's in the UK. As part of that mooted legislation, there will be, as I understand it, a reporting obligation for companies that have $100 million in turnover or more. In the UK, I believe it is £36 million which is equivalent to about 63 million Australian dollars. So a bit lower than what is mooted for Australia. I also believe there's pressure being applied to the Australian government to introduce penalties into the new legislation in relation to noncompliance with reporting requirements. I would have thought that, aside from any penalties that might be imposed, companies from a reputational perspective wouldn't want to be seen as having modern slavery in their supply chains. Does IJM have a view on that?

Kimberly: Yeah. Sure. The consequences of modern slavery in an organization’s supply chain are also multi-faceted. They are economic. They are public relations..media. But what we're really encouraged to see is organizations who are positioning themselves at the forefront of eradicating modern slavery, and what an impact that is making. What an impact that is making to individuals, our clients that we are seeing in India who are being rescued from the brick kilns, rescued from bonded labour in Cambodia, and what we're seeing is those organizations really using their power and their commercial authority to influence that and restore survivors.

David: One last question, from IJM's perspective, and regardless of any legislation that is introduced in Australia, what should corporate Australia be doing to ensure that modern slavery is not occurring within their supply chains?

Kimberly: Yeah. So we really think as the first step, corporations should be bringing this issue to the forefront of their commercial agenda. Not just giving it lip service, but really exploring what implications modern slavery has for their organization, really examining this issue as a commercially important one.

David: Fantastic. So Kimberly, thank you very much for joining us today and sharing your views on modern slavery and certainly, as you say, a growing issue in corporate Australia now with the legislation going to be introduced. To anyone watching this video, please feel free to contact us if you need further information about the issue and we wish IJM all the best in their efforts and thanks for watching.

Kimberly: Thank you so much.


We would like to thank Kimberly Randle and IJM Australia for their deep insights into this significant issue.

International Justice Mission Australia

1300 045 669 | [email protected]

International Justice Mission (IJM) is the world’s largest international anti-slavery organisation working in 17 countries across the developing world to combat modern day slavery, human trafficking, and other forms of violence against the poor by rescuing victims, restoring survivors, holding perpetrators accountable, and transforming broken public justice systems.

International Justice Mission Australia joins in this mission globally and in Australia works to grow the movement of Australians seeking justice for the poor. IJM seeks cross sector partnerships with Australian corporations who see the value of impact investing into justice systems that allows for an enabling environment to address modern slavery through supply chains.