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Investors raise the ante on Modern Slavery Act at six FTSE firms

£817bn (€931.8bn) investor group engages with six unnamed FTSE100 firms

A group of investment firms collectively managing £817bn (€931.8bn) has written to six unnamed FTSE100 companies who they fear are not adhering to the UK Modern Slavery Act.

The UK Modern Slavery Act represents one of the first pieces of legislation in the world to specifically address slavery and trafficking in the 21st century. It requires companies with a turnover of £36m or above to report on how they prevent slavery in their operations and supply chain.

In 2017, 25 FTSE100 companies did not comply with the UK Modern Slavery Act, according to research by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre. As a result the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner wrote to them earlier this year on the issue and received positive responses from most.

However, six unnamed FTSE100 firms did not respond and the Anti-Slavery Commissioner has teamed up with seven investment firms this month to write to them voicing concerns.

The investor signatories to the letter include Rathbone Greenbank, Aviva Investors, Edentree Investment Management, CCLA, France’s Ircantec and two anonymous investment houses.

Non-profit group the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre last year assessed FTSE100 firms on their reporting required under the act.

First Year of FTSE 100 Reports: Under The UK Modern Slavery Act: Towards Elimination? scored companies out of 10, with retailer Marks & Spencer being the only company to score in tier nine. Sainsbury, Unilever, British American Tobacco, Tesco and Vodafone also scored seven to eight.

More than half of FTSE100 companies (52) scored one to three.Investment manager Hargreaves Lansdown, online betting operator Paddy Power Betfair, publishing and education company Pearson and payment processing company Worldpay scored one for minimal reporting on tackling slavery.

Gold mining company Randgold Resources scored zero for not reporting or responding to requests.

Patricia Carrier, Project Manager at the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, said: “In light of the Government’s hands-off approach to enforcing the Modern Slavery Act with companies, this kind engagement by the Commissioner and investors is critical. Thousands of companies have failed to publish statements, and the vast majority of company statements fail to meet even the most basic standards. The Government must take a more active role in enforcing the reporting requirement and demand more meaningful action by companies.”

Laetitia Tankwe, adviser to the president of €10bn French public pension scheme Ircantec, said it signed the letter on modern slavery reporting as one of its shareholder engagement policies decided last year is responsibility in the supply chain and acting on issues such as human rights and child labour.

In a statement, the Anti-Slavery Commissioner said: “FTSE100 businesses are the biggest UK listed companies and therefore it is in the interests of us all that they adhere to the law and play their part in tackling slavery.”

It added: “We hope that this joint intervention sends a strong message to UK businesses.”

Other countries are taking similar steps to legislate on company reporting around slavery. Under the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive 2014 companies will be required to provide disclosure on human rights, and it is expected this will encompass modern slavery.

The Australian government has announced its intention to adopt a modern slavery act in 2018. Link

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