Beyond Compliance in the garment industry

Assessing UK and Australian Modern Slavery Act statements produced by companies and investors in the garment sector

From raw materials to manufacturing, labour exploitation and modern slavery are rife in global garment supply chains. Workers in the industry are vulnerable to forced labour, wage theft, hazardous conditions, illegal overtime, and more. With garment supply chains often operating in locations where laws protecting human rights do not exist, are weak, or are not enforced by local authorities, companies’ own responsibilities to eradicate modern slavery from their supply chains become ever more important.

Legislation such as Modern Slavery Acts (MSA), place obligations on companies in all sectors to report on how they are addressing the risks of modern slavery in their direct operations and supply chains.

To gain an understanding of how the garment industry is upholding these obligations, Walk Free and WikiRate have assessed the statements of the largest garment companies reporting under the UK and Australian MSAs. This report provides a snapshot of their level of disclosure of modern slavery risks, identifies good practice, and highlights gaps in reporting quality.

Watch the Beyond Compliance in the Garment Industry launch

STANDOUT FINDINGS 

31%

of companies assessed do not meet minimum reporting requirements under the MSA legislation.

26%

of companies assessed did not disclose any information on their supply chains.

64%

of companies assessed are not applying modern slavery policies to workers beyond their direct suppliers.

76%

of investor statements did not disclose any oversight of their investee companies.

Recommendations

Garment companies should:

Comply with the legislation and strengthen reporting by:

  • Meeting the minimum requirements
  • Improving transparency on their supply chains and ownership structures
  • Providing more detailed disclosure on due diligence processes to address modern slavery risks.

Increase efforts to tackle modern slavery risks in direct operations and supply chains by:

  • Conducting due diligence with a focus on risks associated with the sector, including impact of COVID-19 and vulnerable informal workers
  • Strengthening dialogue with workers across supply chains
  • Establishing due diligence processes that demonstrate duty of care for vulnerable workers, including providing remediation

Engage with industry and non-industry initiatives, including Better Cotton Initiative and Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

The UK and Australian governments should:

Implement financial penalties for non-compliance with the MSAs.

Strengthen MSA legislation to go beyond mandatory reporting to include mandatory due diligence.

Provide avenues for redress for exploited workers, including civil liability for companies that fail to conduct due diligence.

Strengthening Supply Chain Transparency

This report is part of the strengthening supply chain transparency project where we advocate for Modern Slavery Acts around the world by engaging with governments and partnering with business and civil society champions.

Join the research

Contribute to the Modern Slavery Act project via WikiRate.