Letter: Encourage Businesses to Help End Modern Slavery
Human rights abuses by transnational corporations have been the subject of much discussion lately, including Attracta Mooney’s article “Investors Call for Slavery Controls in Construction” (report, April 13).
I Argue that what is needed is a regulatory agency to dialogue with companies (or consultants acting on their behalf) on the content of their disclosures and the measures taken to prevent human rights violations.
This body should start by publishing lists of companies that have complied with the law and made efforts to exercise due diligence and put in place mechanisms to resolve any problems. These “best in class” lists encourage other companies to make similar efforts. It would also signal to non-governmental organizations, journalists working in the field and consumer groups that companies that were not in the best-in-class list might be worth investigating or engaging in a dialogue with them.
It is only in cases where companies have made no effort to comply or have refused to cooperate with the government agency that a “worst-in-class” list should be published.
Ultimately, the goal should be to co-opt and encourage businesses to work with government agencies, to solve the problems of modern slavery.
Whistleblower hotlines would ensure that complaints are taken seriously and dealt with from the earliest stages.
Workers who fear retaliation might feel safer reporting anonymously to a government agency rather than to their employer or to consultants appointed by their employer.
Senior Lecturer, Australian National University College of Law