Article | Creating Resilience

Ending Modern Slavery is everyone's business

December 1, 2021

By Stevie-Marie Marris

Ending Modern Slavery is everyone's business
While slavery conjures up images of shackles and ships, a relic of a past era, it’s still present and more prevalent than you might think. So much so that today marks the United Nations' International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, to raise awareness of this issue as we, as a global society, move towards the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end modern slavery (goal 8.7) by 2030.  

What is modern slavery?
The term is used to describe the exploitive practices of human trafficking, debt bondage, forced labour, deceptive recruiting for labour or services, slavery or servitude, and forced marriage.  

How big is the problem? 
Over 40.3 million people live in modern slavery globally, and over half of these, 24.9 million, are in forced labour. In Australia, there are an estimated 15,000 people living in modern slavery but only one in five is detected. This means over 80% of victims do not get the support they need and remain in slavery, which is why modern slavery is everyone’s business.  

Why do businesses need to be concerned?  

The global business community is critical in fighting against modern slavery, a practice that spans all business sectors and geographies. According to Anti-Slavery Australia 16 million people are exploited in global supply chains in the private economy. Businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights in their operations and supply chains, as outlined in the United Nations' Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This includes taking steps to assess and address modern slavery risks. 
At CBRE Australia, our Property Management and GWS divisions engage various hard and soft services such as maintenance, cleaning, security, utilities and catering. We believe that services reliant on relatively low-paid labour are our greatest risk areas for abusive and exploitative practices in the supply chain in Australia. 

We are committed to respecting human rights and working with businesses that share our values. As a measure of our commitment, we published our first Modern Slavery Statement for Australia. The statement sets out the actions we have taken to assess and address modern slavery risks in our Australian operations and supply chains in 2020 and our plans for 2021. 

How can you spot modern slavery in your supply chains and operations? 

People can be hidden in plain sight.  

Look out for: Poor mental or physical health, lack control around finances, fear of authorities or working rights checks and excessive working hours in third party workforces. 

Identify key risks: Undisclosed sub-contracting, compliance to modern awards plus industry oncosts, debt bondage, workers working under student visas and on an ABN. 

At CBRE we understand our purchasing power and procurement practices can positively influence vendors on a large scale to operate in a socially responsible way that benefits the whole community. We all have a responsibility to respect and create opportunities to advance human rights. How do we eradicate modern slavery? We can start with ensuring that our supply chains and operations have robust procedures to ensure no person is victim of modern slavery.  

Global Slavery Index
United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights 
United Nations The Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact
United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights