The purpose of this resource is to offer a comprehensive overview of global human rights due diligence legislation, including both proposed and enacted laws. Initially created for the Australian Cotton Industry, this document is also valuable for policymakers, industry professionals, civil society, and scholars interested in understanding trends in human rights due diligence, comparing legislation across countries, and estimating anticipated changes for businesses operating in Australia.
The Growing Focus on Mandatory Due Diligence
Over the past few decades, there has been heightened scrutiny on the societal impacts of businesses. International organizations have developed non-binding guidelines and recommendations since the 1970s, acknowledging companies’ responsibility to uphold human rights and implement due diligence across supply chains. However, these voluntary international agreements have fallen short in effectively safeguarding human rights within commercial supply chains. Consequently, governments have experienced increasing pressure to incorporate these guidelines into domestic legislation.
In recent years, there has been a notable increase in country-level due diligence legislation, inspired by guidelines from international organizations. Examples of such legislation include the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act 2010, the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015, the French Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law 2017, and the Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018. Our analysis highlights the rapid development of due diligence legislation, with numerous drafts currently under parliamentary discussion. Critics have voiced concerns regarding the nature of these reforms, citing lenient penalties, weak requirements, and a limited scope of businesses affected. Despite these criticisms, the growing prevalence of domestic due diligence legislation demonstrates its potential to pave the way for significant change.
Key trends in human rights due diligence legislation:
- Increasing robustness: New legally binding regulatory frameworks are becoming increasingly more robust, with the expectation that mandatory due diligence across supply chains will be the end result.
- Expanding expectations: There is a growing expectation for small and medium-sized businesses to incorporate aspects of due diligence, as seen in the Aotearoa New Zealand proposal and Canadian Modern Slavery Act.
- Industry-specific legislation: Laws targeting specific industries have emerged, such as the New York Fashion Act and the US FABRIC Act.
- Broadening scope : Some proposals extend the scope of workplace violations to include worker exploitation, as in the Aotearoa New Zealand proposal.
- Legal redress for victims: Certain laws provide opportunities for victims to seek legal redress, as in the Dutch Child Labor Law.
- Increased fines and penalties: Some acts impose higher fines and penalties, such as the US Uyghur Forced Labor Act and the German Act on Corporate Due Diligence.
These trends indicate a global shift towards stronger and more comprehensive human rights due diligence legislation, emphasising the importance of businesses in upholding human rights and promoting sustainability across their supply chains.
This briefing session brings together academic experts in the fields of modern slavery, labour law compliance, supply chain due diligence and temporary migrant workers, to share insights and advice on how universities can demonstrate leadership in promoting good labour practices. The aim of this briefing is to assist relevant stakeholders in the higher education sector to understand their role in promoting good labour practices, and provide guidance on practically how to do this. This briefing is aimed at professionals working in university procurement and contract management, university modern slavery working groups, university risk and compliance, cleaning and security contractors that currently hold contracts at university campuses.
Continue reading Modern Slavery Risks in the Cleaning and Security Industry
Over the last two decades many of the world’s largest companies have been involved in scandals, misconduct and dubious ethics. Rather than relying on interventions by public authorities, the dominant governing rationality is informed by the belief that the market is able to balance social, environmental, and financial interests. However, the vast majority of companies that have been involved in ethical transgressions have survived – and have even thrived. Potential damage to the reputation of companies, or threats to their ‘social license to operate’, seems to have had a limited effect. There is therefore reason to believe that market forces are not adequate by themselves to correct corporate misbehaviour.
This chapter from the upcoming ‘Research Handbook on the Sociology of Organizations’ explores the reliance on market forces to correct corporate actions that are not aligned with the common good. It examines to what extent legitimacy theory adequately explains the dynamics around organizational legitimacy, and it proposes an expansion of legitimacy theory to increase its explanatory power: the use of social dominance theory and legitimizing myths expands (organizational) legitimacy as a theoretical construct. In explaining why antagonistic stakeholders continue to rely on market-based approaches, this research suggests that they have either bought into the hierarchy-enhancing myths, or they have not yet developed compelling hierarchy-attenuating myths to challenge the status quo. The chapter concludes with the suggestion that the ‘social license to operate’ and ‘corporate purpose’ are legitimizing myths that uphold the idea that the market can balance social, environmental, and financial interests.
This article establishes a new basis for examining the participation, mobilisation and impact of investors at a time when market-based activism for social change is rising in prominence. Existing terminology describing the expression of political values through investment decisions lacks conceptual clarity. Political participation by shareholders and other investors is variously described as shareholder activism or socially responsible investment, and currently conceptualised under the banner of political consumerism. However, this term fails to capture the unique political role and diverse actions of investors. We put forward ‘political investorism’ as a cohering term for investment-based political participation to remedy existing conceptual confusion, to distinguish between investors and consumers as political actors and to set an agenda for the future study of market-based activism. This article defines and develops the concept of political investorism, drawing upon illustrative cases from Australia to identify hallmarks, actors and tactics of this form of political participation.
The Special Issue on ‘Modern Slavery and the Employment Relationship: Defining the Continuum of Exploitation’ in the Journal of Industrial Relations is now available online. The Special Issue focuses on what the large- and small-scale risk factors are that can cause working conditions to deteriorate, on how people can become trapped in exploitative conditions, and on what can be done to prevent and remedy labour abuses. Included articles explore the macro-level, specifically by examining global value chains and the labour exploitation within the global production regime and by examining the producer-end (rather than buyer end) of value chains and the responsibilities of companies for working conditions further downstream (rather than upstream) in the value chain. Other articles explore the market-based character of business and human rights regulation. One article concludes that market enforcement of modern slavery regulation is sub-optimal and should include $ penalties and a public regulator while another article asks whether business and human rights regulation originating in the Global North can improve working conditions in the Global South (spoiler: it’s complicated). Articles looking at the micro-level examine labour regimes on factory floors, specifically by examining the influence of the post-Rana Plaza labour governance system on worker outcomes and conditions of employment (hardship remains but less sweatshops) and by documenting the work experiences of Romanian transnational live-in care workers in Austria, where workers gave accounts of having been treated unfairly due to their dependence on placement agencies and employers.
Some Pacific Islander workers say they feel like they are being “treated like slaves” as fruit pickers in Australia under the Seasonal Worker Programme.
For Samoan man Alex Muese, arriving in Australia to work was a dream come true.
Mr Muese, 34, carries great responsibility as he cares for eight children, his wife and her parents.
When he received his Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) visa, he thought he would earn an hourly wage to support his family in Samoa.
Continue reading Seasonal farm workers make claims of ‘modern slavery’
Underpayment is becoming an increasingly prevalent issue in Australia, with certain industries and sub-sets of workers more affected than others. Given the increasing prevalence of wage theft, workers can become resigned to accept employment below the minimum wage due to expectations that underpayment is unavoidable. While the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) plays a key role in identifying and rectifying underpayments, increased funding is required to allow it to effectively uncover breaches. Both mandatory and voluntary supply chain measures can play a key role to help target the issue of underpayment. Our submission recommends new legislation be passed to better regulate labour standards and the gig economy, strengthening enforcement of existing regulations.
The Standing Committee on Social Issues is inquiring into and reporting on the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW) (the NSW Act), the consultation draft of the Modern Slavery Bill 2019 (the amendment Bill), and the consultation draft of the Modern Slavery Regulation 2019 (NSW) (the Regulation), with particular reference to:
- (a) the operability of the proposed anti-slavery scheme
- (b) the effect of the anti-slavery scheme on business, including the supply chain reporting obligations under section 24 of the NSW Act
- (c) the intended application of the anti-slavery scheme with respect to charities and not-forprofit organisations, State Owned Corporations and local councils
- (d) the appropriateness and enforceability of Modern Slavery Risk Orders under section 29 of the NSW Act
- (e) the unintended consequences of drafting issues with the NSW Act, including with respect to the Human Tissue Act 1983 (NSW) and the sale and supply of human tissue
- (f) the risk of a possible constitutional challenge to current provisions in the NSW Act due to inconsistencies with the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)
- (g) whether the passage of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) renders parts or all of the NSW Act unnecessary, or requiring of amendment to address inconsistencies or gaps
- (h) the preferred course of action to address the matters identified
- (i) any other related matter.
Below is the submission made by Justine Nolan and Martijn Boersma.