[Australia] How To Break The Supply Chain Of Modern Slavery

There are more people trapped in slavery today than at any other time in human history. Over 40 million people worldwide are victims of modern-day slavery entraps and its perpetrators make an estimated US $150billion a year from their exploitation. A graduate of Monash University is helping to fight back, Monash Life reports.

Monash economics graduate Kimberley Cole reportedly evolved into a leading modern-day activist when she worked for the world news and information service, Thomson Reuters. As their head of solutions sales, financial and risk, Asia, Ms Cole put in motion the Thomson Reuters anti-slavery summits, held in recent years in Hong Kong (link via original reporting).

Ms Cole explains the relevance of the issue to her role by pointing out that slavery is, essentially, a financial crime committed through the brutal suppression of fundamental human right. The financial plunder is something that she felt she could tackle.

She explains that from a financial and risk perspective, 80 per cent of  Thomson Reuters’ customers were banks:

“And we had great tools to help them identify money laundering,” Ms Cole says. “So we took the approach that slavery often also involved money laundering, so we could take action.” 

Kimberly Cole helmed a collaboration between Thomson Reuters and international charity Liberty Shared, bringing together on-the-ground information from NGOs with financial data and technology services in order to identify potential slave-related activity and the people involved. 

“Companies need to take responsibility for digging deeper into their supply chains, which are increasingly global. The reality is that everyone will have a link to slavery in some way.” 

Modern slavery and supply chains

Estimates place 60 per cent of slavery victims in Asian countries. Ms Cole says local communities need increased awareness, in addition to spreading the word further afield. “Companies need to take responsibility for digging deeper into their supply chains, which are increasingly global. The reality is that everyone will have a link to slavery in some way.”

Ms Cole has continued to highlight the issue in Hong Kong since 2015 when she co-founded Trust Forum Asia, which became the Stop Slavery Summits. She says an increase in media coverage and public conversation is heightening awareness of the issue and causing change. Supply chains involving slavery or forced labour in any form are not sustainable and become more fragile with each new piece of legislation passed, such as Australia’s Modern Slavery Act 2018 (link via original reporting).

Kimberly Cole’s work goes on in her role on the board of the Fair Employment Foundation. The foundation is a Hong Kong-based not-for-profit organisation which was established to provide recruitment services for employers without trapping migrant workers into debt bondage.

Migrants looking for work are often charged illegal fees by recruitment companies for introductions to employers. In Hong Kong, figures demonstrate that some migrant workers effectively work six to eight months for free to pay off debts incurred on their job search. 

In another illegal practice, workers’ passports are sometimes confiscated which prevents them from leaving.

The foundation’s Fair Employment Agency placed 3000 migrants into jobs as domestic workers, from 2014 to 2018, without charging them fees (link via original reporting). By their actions there were 3000 fewer victims of forced labour and criminals were deprived of HK$4.5million. 

The agency uses online resources and workplace events to keep potential employers of migrant workers informed about legal requirements and aware of how they can help prevent forced labour and related criminal activities.

Ms Cole says these kinds of awareness activities are crucial in helping to empower people to take action to end modern-day slavery. Whatever action that may be.

Source: Monash Life