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Not Confined to the History Books – Modern Slavery and Supply Chains

Quality InsightsOctober 20, 2023

Slavery is not a thing of the past. Almost 50 million people are still slaves worldwide, and it is a problem that impacts many countries and supply chains.

Modern slavery, as a term, encompasses many forms, such as human trafficking and people born into slavery. There are various definitions, but all include aspects of control, involuntary actions and exploitation.

From violence or threats to debt or deportation

A modern slave might face violence or threats, be forced into inescapable debt, or have their passport taken away and face deportation.

Many people have fallen into this trap because they were trying to escape poverty or insecurity, improve their lives and support their families. Now, they cannot leave.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), Walk Free and the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) latest Global Estimates of Modern Slavery (2022) document:

  • 49.6 million people live in modern slavery – in forced labor or forced marriages
  • Roughly a quarter of all modern slavery victims are children
  • 22 million people are in forced marriages. Two out of five of these people are children
  • Of the 27.6 million people trapped in forced labor, 17.3 million are in forced labor exploitation in the private economy, 6.3 million are in commercial sexual exploitation, and nearly 4 million are in forced labor imposed by state authorities
  • COVID-19 has exacerbated the conditions that lead to modern slavery
  • Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to forced labor

Types of slavery today

Modern slavery forms include:

  • Human trafficking
  • Forced labor
  • Debt bondage/bonded labor
  • Descent-based slavery (where people are born into slavery)
  • Child slavery
  • Forced and early marriage
  • Domestic servitude

Modern slavery in supply chains

For supply chains, modern slavery cannot be underestimated. People can become enslaved through actions like making clothes, serving or producing food, picking crops or working in factories.

Modern slavery can exist at every stage of the supply chain, from harvesting or extracting raw materials, such as cocoa or cotton, to manufacturing and shipping.

Most products pass through a long, complex chain of producers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers before reaching consumers. It is difficult to track all of a product’s components back to a particular producer. Such supply chains naturally make it tricky to see who is working where and under what conditions. Some of the services, techniques and technology mentioned later in this document can support such transparency.

Why SGS Supply Chain Assurance?

Our Supply Chain Assurance services provide auditing and verification across a multitude of areas and content. Whether you use our checklists, customized programs or industry-driven initiatives, you can be sure that we are a trusted partner for deploying your program.

We offer comprehensive subject expertise and supplier assurance solutions in many areas, including:

  • Social compliance
  • Environmental management
  • Quality management
  • Information security
  • Sustainability
  • Governance
  • Health and safety

Our customized audits are tailored to your organization. We have active programs with clients to audit and verify suppliers against a variety of risk-based content. 

Our knowledge and global network of experts enable us to leverage large-scale resources for you. With our experience and guidance, you can work quickly and easily toward compliance with local, national and international regulations, reducing errors, increasing consistency and promoting positive values within your company.

We offer invaluable insights through up-to-date and validated supplier information. Our data-centric methodology allows us to strategically examine your suppliers’ risks. We can tailor our approach based on the data and specific risk areas.

Combining innovative technology with subject matter experts

Our best-in-class technology and subject matter experts can help you to improve supplier data accuracy through:

  • Risk assessment
  • Self-assessment questionnaires
  • Data validation
  • On-site audits based on a supplier’s products, services and/or region of supply

Our software solution combines with our supplier onboarding infrastructure and global network’s data validation capabilities to support your supply chain evaluation and mitigation.

Data within any solution is only useful if it is accurate. We check suppliers’ submitted information for quality, accuracy and authenticity, alongside reviewing and asking them to resubmit date-sensitive information for the most accurate view of compliance at all times.

We also utilize a modular approach to help mitigate Tier 1 supplier risks by covering a broad range of risk criteria, including health and safety, quality, environment and social responsibility. This can be fully customized to your specific risk criteria.

This is but an extract from our new Supply chain internationalization, risks and legislation – how experts, technology and customized audits are key white paper.

Contact us for more information.

For further information, please contact:

Jason Hulbert
Associate Marketing Manager
t: +44 7912426878

About SGS

We are SGS – the world’s leading testing, inspection and certification company. We are recognized as the global benchmark for sustainability, quality and integrity. Our 98,000 employees operate a network of 2,650 offices and laboratories, working together to enable a better, safer and more interconnected world.

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