10 years on from the Rana Plaza disaster: How can retail businesses address modern slavery?

Apr 24 / Watchdog Compliance

April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza building, once a bustling centre of commerce, came crashing down. The eight-story structure, which housed banks, shops, and garment factories, became a grim reminder of the horrors of modern-day slavery and the appalling exploitation of workers.

Tragically, 1,134 individuals lost their lives, while thousands of others suffered debilitating injuries. What made this disaster all the more harrowing is the fact that it was entirely preventable. Despite warnings of significant structural defects, the factory owners on the upper floors of the building forced their employees to return to work the following day. And in a matter of hours, the entire building collapsed.
The responsibility to tackle modern slavery and worker exploitation in retail supply chains doesn't rest solely with governments and non-profit organisations. Retail businesses must do their part to address this issue to ensure tragedies like the Rana Plaza building collapse never happen again.

One of the most critical steps that retail businesses can take is to conduct a comprehensive supply chain audit.

This audit should involve mapping out the entire supply chain, conducting due diligence on suppliers, and assessing the risks of each supplier. By identifying any risks of modern slavery, retail businesses can take proactive steps to address the issue and prevent it from occurring.

Retail businesses should develop a Supplier Code of Conduct that sets out clear expectations and requirements for suppliers to adhere to. This code should include policies on human rights, labor standards, and ethical practices. By establishing a code of conduct, retail businesses can ensure that their suppliers are aware of the risks of modern slavery and the ethical standards that are expected of them.

Engaging with suppliers
is another critical step in addressing modern slavery in the retail supply chain. Retail businesses should raise awareness of the risks of modern slavery and encourage suppliers to adopt ethical practices. This can involve providing training and support to suppliers to help them implement policies and procedures to address modern slavery.

Retail businesses should also conduct regular monitoring and auditing of suppliers. This can involve site visits, worker interviews, and the use of independent third-party auditors. By monitoring and auditing suppliers, retail businesses can ensure that their suppliers are adhering to ethical standards and addressing any issues of modern slavery that may arise.

Transparency is another key factor
in addressing modern slavery in the retail supply chain. Retail businesses should encourage suppliers to be transparent about their supply chains and the conditions of workers. This can involve requesting information on supplier policies and practices and ensuring that this information is publicly available.

Finally, if modern slavery is identified, retail businesses should take immediate action to remediate the issue and report incidents to the appropriate authorities. This can help to hold suppliers accountable and prevent further exploitation.

By taking proactive steps to address modern slavery in their supply chains, retail businesses can help to promote ethical and sustainable practices and work towards the eradication of modern-day slavery.