Modern slavery. Many people think that slavery no longer exists, but it is still big business. However we, and others, continue to make positive strides towards its abolition.

It is estimated that there were just shy of 50 million people living as slaves in 2021 – that’s more than at any point in recorded history. Primary production and the profits to be had by minimising costs in this area have opened the doors of opportunity to unscrupulous entities ready, willing and able to capitalise on vulnerable supply chains, and/or leaky legislation in certain government jurisdictions. This is often uncovered in primary and secondary manufacturing, agriculture, resources, fisheries, mobile device and tech companies, energy and resources sectors.

In response, research, remediation and reporting protocols have been both embraced and worked through by ours and other sectors to eradicate modern slavery.
In this Industry Trends article, we further explore the modern slavery journey to help give a fuller understanding of the situation and the steps energy procurement companies have taken to stem the flow and demand for slavery.

Snapshot of today

Sadly, people are being lured away from their homes and families by the promise of a regular income and in many cases, never seen or heard from again. Recognising this, governments across the globes worked with anti-slavery advocates to frame legislation to bring accountability to companies when sourcing primary materials
Today, Australian companies grossing over $100m in turnover are required by legislation to make a modern slavery statement in compliance with the 2019 Modern Slavery Act. With surety around procurement being key, our industry is helping to lead the way in terms of slavery-free supply chains.
However, the energy procurement landscape as it relates to modern slavery has changed and will continue to do so. Whereas the linear nature of fossil fuel production for energy supply meant that potential vulnerabilities to modern slavery could be identified “at a distance”, the progression towards clean energy solutions has muddied the waters. The introduction and integration of solar, battery and wind solutions to the energy procurement mix have added levels of complexity to the supply chain – and therefore vulnerabilities to modern slavery.

     – Solar panel component production which is reliant on the procurement of specific metals

     – Batteries whose mineral component production holds a high risk of human rights infractions

     – Wind turbines, the production of which relies heavily on the South American logging industry for balsa wood

It’s simple enough to say, “reporting is the key” and what we and others have been able to show is that effective reporting, as required by the Act, is best accomplished when preceded by:

     – strong governance

     – incisive risk assessment

     – Due diligence and researching and collaborating with the source of materials

     – training across the supplier and employee landscape

Here at EPSA, we have all enjoyed the benefits of information-sharing and collaboration. It’s the power of collaboration among energy procurement entities, resource entities and supply chains within and across sectors that has led to the:

     – Development of guides to enhancing reporting

     – Raising of awareness

     – Enhanced guidance and reference material for the fulfilling compliance obligations

Our industry is leading the way in the fight against modern slavery. It will be a hard-won battle and there are reasons why.

Why we need to keep working hard to fight Modern Slavery
Modern Slavery remains a multibillion-dollar, global industry with nations on the African continent, parts of Asia and Europe seeing a significant prevalence of exploitation. The catalyst? Profit.
Unfortunately, some governments have been known to turn a blind eye to the epidemic and as a result, the evidence of slavery is well-hidden in bureaucracy and certain points within the energy supply chains. Over the past two decades, efforts have been stepped up to address the problem. Australia joins the US, UK (Modern Slavery Act of 2015) and other European nations in enacting reforms and legislative acts addressing modern slavery. Specifically, and most notably relevant to energy procurement is the aforementioned requirement for large commercial organisations to make and/or update specific, detailed statements around their supply chains, annually.

Let’s conclude with simple steps towards stopping modern slavery
As is the case with many societal ills driven by commercial factors, awareness of the issue and how these issues proliferate is the first step. Intentional curiosity with a view to safeguarding supply chains from deliberate or inadvertent infiltration, backed by steadfast reporting, completes a solid start.
Amid reports that more needs to be done to maintain and build upon the momentum to curb Modern Slavery, more will be asked of our industry and others in the way of in-depth reporting. With funding already provided in the 2023-24 Federal budget for an independent anti-slavery commissioner, recommendations from the Modern Slavery Review will require early consideration and planning, ahead of likely reforms. For now, handy resources to learn more include: .

There is always more to do, and it is important for our processes, and companies but most important of all, for humanity for us to be diligent, compliant and aware.