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Modern Slavery

Published 02 Aug 2023

The New Zealand Government is collaborating with businesses to combat modern slavery and address exploitation in supply chains through new legislation. This legislation will mandate organisations and businesses with over $20 million in revenue to be transparent about their operations and supply chains by enlisting them in a public register. The objective is to bring modern slavery practices to light, ensuring the safety and dignity of workers.

The Government are promising proposed legislation and register which would be among the most robust reporting systems globally to tackle modern slavery, as the problem has worsened during the pandemic. According to estimates by the International Labour Organisation and Walk Free (, around 50 million people are trapped in modern slavery on any given day, compared to 40 million in 2016. The new reporting requirements will level the playing field for businesses and enable conscious consumers to make informed choices about the products and services they consume. Currently, it is estimated Kiwi households unknowingly contribute an average of $34.00 per week to industries implicated in modern slavery.

Additionally, New Zealand has commitments in its Free Trade Agreements with the United Kingdom and the European Union to take measures against modern slavery in supply chains and promote responsible business conduct. Failing to take action could jeopardise trading relationships and harm the country's transparent and ethical reputation in export markets and on the global stage.

The focus on larger organisations strikes a balance by encouraging entities with substantial supply chains to address exploitation risks without overburdening smaller businesses. The Modern Slavery Leadership Advisory Group, led by Rob Fyfe, played a pivotal role in the consultation process, emphasising the necessity of these changes.

While this legislation addresses reporting transparency for larger organisations, the Government acknowledges the importance of pursuing broader reform to handle more complex components, including 'due diligence' and 'take action' responsibilities. Labour's Carmel Sepuloni, a prominent figure in the efforts to combat modern slavery, remains committed to progressing this work to its successful conclusion.

The forthcoming legislation will take approximately six months to draft, and it represents a positive step forward for both Kiwi businesses and New Zealand's international trading reputation. By encouraging transparency in supply chains, the reporting system will respond to growing consumer demands for knowledge about the origins of products they purchase. This move aims to prevent modern slavery practices within operations and supply chains and ensure responsible business practices are upheld.

In conclusion, the New Zealand Government is taking significant steps to combat modern slavery and ensure businesses are transparent about their supply chains. By introducing new legislation and a public register, larger organizations will be required to report and address exploitation risks, thus fostering ethical practices and promoting responsible business conduct. This move not only aligns New Zealand with key trading partners but also meets the demands of conscious consumers seeking greater transparency in the products they purchase.

Many businesses who undertake Health & Safety or compliance diligence tests particularly so with international organisations may already have been asked to provide their anti-slavery policies and procedures. Once legislation is passed, obligations in this regard will become far more commonplace.