Co-op Group backs stricter enforcement of the Modern Slavery Act

The retailer supports 21 recommendations, which would ‘give teeth’ to the Modern Slavery Act

The Co-op Group has voiced its support for all 21 recommendations published in the second interim report part of the Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act. The recommendations aim to ‘give teeth’ to the Modern Slavery Act.

The report suggests, among other things, that certain failures – including the failure to fulfil modern slavery statement reporting requirements or to act when instances of slavery are found – should be an offence under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986. The paper also argues that the government should further strengthen its public procurement processes to make sure that non-compliant companies in scope of section 54 are not eligible for public contracts.

The legislation requires large businesses to report on what they have done to eliminate modern slavery from their supply chains. However, the report found that as many as 50% fail to comply. The Group believes the Act would be more effective if the Review’s recommendations were adopted.

The Co-op Group has been campaigning against modern slavery since 2017. That year it set up the pioneering Bright Future programme, in partnership with the charity City Hearts, to create employment opportunities for victims of modern slavery. To date, more than 100 people have been given support and work place opportunities, to help rebuild their lives. The initiative brought the retailer the Thomson Reuters Stop Slavery Award.

The Co-op Group’s Campaigns & Public Affairs director Paul Gerrard said: “At present many businesses simply ignore the Act and do not produce an annual modern slavery statement. That is why it is imperative that a single, independently run depository is created and enforcement of it given to a specific agency with the necessary teeth overseen by the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

“Today’s recommendations would genuinely help to stop men, women and children being exploited and enslaved. I hope Government will welcome them as unreservedly as any responsible business should and implement them all without delay.”