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Media Release | COVID-19 Highlights Importance of Responsibly Managed Supply Chains

COVID-19 highlights Importance of Responsibly Managed Supply Chains

MEDIA RELEASE | The current COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the human face of supply chains and how it important it is to consider individuals which are more vulnerable and exposed to exploitation, particularly, as economic conditions become more challenging.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) reports that, globally, almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour, with an estimated 19 million of those exploited by private individuals and enterprises.

Identifying and supporting vulnerable people in Australian supply chains was already a key focus of a nation-wide industry working group comprising key roads sector organisations. The Coalition members to date are ISCA, Australian Constructors Association, Downer, Fulton Hogan, John Holland, Main Roads WA, McConnell Dowell, Lendlease, Transurban and the Victorian Department of Transport.

The Coalition’s aim is to work together to equip members to better respond to legislation, and ultimately, minimise the risk of modern slavery occurring in project operations and supply chains. Led by the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA), the coalition is seeking to drive a consistent and collaborative response to preventing and addressing modern slavery risks within their industry. 

“The COVID-19 crisis has only emphasised the importance of having an industry-wide approach to modern slavery,” said ISCA CEO Ainsley Simpson.
“People that are already vulnerable to exploitation are now even more vulnerable as a result of the pandemic,” said Ms Simpson, “particularly as people become more desperate to work or who may slip through cracks in government support schemes”.

“As we weather the COVID-19 crisis, and then ramp-up to support the economic recovery on the other side, it is absolutely critical that the infrastructure sector invests in sustainable, inclusive and resilient supply chains. This is to not only deliver long-term value creation, but also to commit to meeting our social and ethical responsibilities,” she said.

While the legislation is focused on reporting, the Coalition believes it also provides organisations with a framework for managing modern slavery risks in practice, both in their own operations and in their supply chains.

Vanessa Zimmerman, CEO of Pillar Two, a business and human rights advisory firm, and Independent Chair of the Coalition, emphasised the importance of this Coalition, saying, “it is the right time for the road infrastructure industry to be proactive as well as look for collaborative solutions”.

“With significant growth in the Australian road infrastructure sector, the recent modern slavery legislation as well as increasing expectations from external stakeholders - including investors, customers and civil society - companies in the road sector need to be able to know and show that they are managing their modern slavery risks,” said Ms Zimmerman

This is the case now more than ever as we face uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with experts identifying increasing risks for abuse of workers in global supply chains,” she said.

Over the coming year, the Coalition will continue to focus on enhancing the road sector’s knowledge around the risks of modern slavery as well as building members’ capacity to respond to those risks, focusing on what collaborative opportunities exist as a sector to tackle effective modern slavery risk management and reporting together, as well as provide a forum to consider these issues in the light of the COVID-19 crisis.

If you operate in the road infrastructure sector and would like more information about how to join the Coalition please contact Paul Davies from ISCA on
About the Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act (2018)
The Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act was passed by the Australian Parliament in November 2018 and entered into force in January 2019. The Act includes a national requirement for large businesses and other organizations in Australia to report on how they are responding to modern slavery. It is designed to help businesses identify and address modern slavery risks and maintain responsible supply chains. The requirement compels businesses to prepare annual modern slavery statements setting out their response to modern slavery risks throughout their operations and supply chains.