Investors’ call for central repository of modern slavery statements gets government nod

Investors hail big step forward though government won’t mandate reporting in annual reports

The UK government has heeded investors’ calls for a centralised, state-run repository for companies’ modern slavery statements.

Calls for a repository were made by the Church Investors Group (CIG), which represents £21bn in assets on behalf of church pension funds and charities, and charity fund manager CCLA in their 2018 submission to the Home Affairs Committee review of the 2015 Modern Slavery Act.

That recommendation was picked up in the final report of an independent government-backed review earlier this year and has now been adopted by the government in its response to the review.

“We welcome what the government have done, it is a big step forward and the centralised repository is really-important, a proper place where every company can be compared”, James Corah, Head of Ethical and Responsible Investment at CCLA, told RI.

He added: “We also welcome the fact that the government is telling companies that statements need to be much more transparent and open about the instances of slavery they’ve found… our view is that nearly every company will have slavery in their supply chain somewhere, so getting to that point where companies are encouraged to find it is a step forward.”

The government said creating a central, government-run service with a single reporting deadline would make it “much easier for investors, consumers and civil society to effectively scrutinise statements and hold organisations to account for their actions”.But the government said it does not intend to mandate modern slavery reporting in companies’ annual reports or create an offence under company law. It is concerned that this might lead to an “overly compliance driven approach”.

“Our view is that nearly every company will have slavery in their supply chain somewhere”

The government also announced a further public consultation on transparency in supply chains, to help strengthen the Act, one of the first pieces of legislation in the world to specifically address slavery and trafficking in the 21st century.

But since the Act was passed in 2015 it has been criticised for its limited impact. The government itself acknowledging in its response that that many organisations have published “poor quality statements which contain little or no evidence” of steps taken to address slavery

Corah said CCLA is working on its response to the new consultation and called on other interested investors to get in touch and “add their weight”.

He added that CCLA will shortly publish a report on its modern slavery engagement work.