Plant Flowers – Root Out Slavery

As we grow in our understanding of the nature and scope of human trafficking we become more aware of its different aspects and are in a better position to challenge it on its various fronts. One aspect that is being better understood is the supply chains companies use for production of their goods. Most products have several aspects of production involving materials which may come from different parts and are gathered or made by people, these then become parts which are produced by more people and finally put together by yet more people (imagine a garment or a car). The people that are engaged to work in production are often grossly underpaid or not paid at all. We call this slave labour. So, looking at supply chains and ensuring that they are slave-free is both a necessary and extremely complex process, even for companies themselves as their supply often comes from countries far away such as Bangladesh, the Philippines, Thailand, etc.

‘Plant Flowers, Root Out Slavery’ is a campaign which has been running since the beginning of June. It found practical expression when, during the famous annual Chelsea Flower Show, several people campaigned outside the flower show to raise awareness among those attending that the principle sponsors of the show M&G Investments, are major shareholders in a company which is being challenged for its use of slave labour. People interviewed were surprised that this company was at once accepting the fruits of slave labour while at the same time sponsoring such a wonderful event.

Since the Modern Slavery Bill was passed in 2015 the UK Government has worked hard to comprehend and address the crime of modern slavery. One of the ways that it is doing this is by making UK companies accountable for their supply chains. 10,000 of the top companies, initially, are being required to state publicly that their supply chains are slave free. So far only 3000 have responded but this is a legally binding requirement which the others will have to respond to eventually. One only hopes that the delay in their response is due to them ensuring that the supply chains are slave free or that they are taking steps to rectify any inconsistency.

This is a time too when we might ask ourselves about the supply chain to our wardrobe or our fridge. A good way to start would be to look at the labels on our clothes, where were they made? Is it possible that my top which was made in Bangladesh was contributed to on its journey to completion by persons who were enslaved? It is time we all became involved in challenging companies who endorse or collude with slave labour.
Patricia Byrne rsc

Logo and pictures by kind permission of Freedom United

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