Modern-Day Slavery & Supply Chains in the Global Economy: Selecting Breakouts

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As Emma told us in her last fascinating post, the past few weeks for us have included a lot of mulling over the many many external and internal breakout sessions on offer at the One Young World Conference (which is excitingly less than a month away!). The variety and depth of sessions on offer mean that choosing just two was a difficult task- resulting in my choice being made dangerously close to the deadline that had been set.

The internal breakout sessions offered included a session on 'Using Sport for Good' led by the Laureus Foundation, a Corporate Social Responsibility workshop run by Johnson & Johnson and a talk on 'Measuring Social Impact' by PwC, all topics that were incredibly tempting for me. However, I finally chose to attend a series of talks and discussions on 'Modern-Day Slavery & Supply Chains in the Global Economy'.

This topic is so fascinating because, though many of us don't appreciate it, slavery does still exist in multiple forms in today's society, and it affects pretty much each and every one of us. An estimated 46 million men, women and children are exploited daily. And it's not just for things like sex trafficking, which seems a little more detached to most of us here in the UK. But some of the biggest profiteers of modern day slave labour are today's corporations. I don't like to think about it, but I have little doubt that sometime today I will use a tech device, or wear a piece of clothing, to which slave labour has contributed.

But there are so many challenges in trying to resolve this issue.

Would you stop using your smartphone if you knew it was a product of exploited labour?

Maybe, but I imagine most people (myself, I admit with guilt, included) would choose to ignore the fact. Because these things have become such an integral part of our lives, and many of us couldn't imagine living without them. Slave-made goods have proliferated to the extent that it might be considered unreasonable to expect a mass boycott of them.

Would a company stop producing their products in factories that make use of exploited labour?

Again, maybe. But for so many, the bottom line is what matters most. A labour force which is granted employment rights and benefits costs money- and, despite the longer term productivity gains that greater investment in a labour force can bring, companies choose to take the option that will bring them greater short-term profits.

So, slavery has not been eradicated from our world- it has simply taken another form. And, gone unnoticed by most of us, it has grown deep roots in today's economy and supply chains. I'm very excited to hear what speakers such as Benjamin Skinner, (a modern day slavery expert who has actually gone undercover into trafficking networks) and Sneha Shah, MD at Thomson Reuters Africa, have to say on the issue.

See this great interview below with Benjamin Skinner to get a deeper insight into this issue!

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