When tasked to write Ardea Internationals own Modern Slavery Statement, I wondered if I had ever even read one. And that seemed to be the perfect starting point. Researching similar small businesses and vastly different, more complex business structures gave a grand overview of what could be included, how it can be made both interesting and informative, and most importantly effective. Reading the Modern Slavery Act, particularly Section 54 was essential in covering all aspects of a good modern slavery statement.
Knowing what Ardea International does, I set out writing primarily with our ethos in mind. Core values of the business are displayed on our website, along with outdated policies that could be developed within our new statement.
While having an ethos and a business principle are important, there are practical stresses that must be attended to. In section 54, it is made clear that the inclusion of supply chain issues, training, due diligence, and monitoring are just as critical as any moral obligation your company feels.
So, one must assess these sections.
Is your supply chain small or complex? If it is small, what are you doing to encourage best practice with every single purchase? If, like Ardea International, you work primarily from home and with very limited supplies needed, it is outside of work where we employees can do more to reduce impacts on human rights, and this can and should be encouraged.
Employee’s need the knowledge to make these proactive decisions, and this is where training becomes key. By discussing employee training as a business, we came to the conclusion that we can introduce an induction training to all employees using our own e-learning, and encourage the take up of other courses we offer. If your employees are trained, and re-trained, and assessed and tested on the application of this training – write it down! If not, and it seems necessary, state how you will implement effective training in the next year.
Section 54 emphasises the importance of having due diligence practices across business partnerships. Reducing liability is one motivation, but reducing impact – specifically your involvement in impacts – is a huge incentive to correctly screen potential business partners. Look at how your business maneuvers this exchange. Are you screening their practices, their own statements? How do you plan to approach a business partnership where there is no confidence in the transparency of other businesses?
The section I thought most difficult to tackle is monitoring. As a small business, impacts can often seem so small that year-on-year monitoring can seem futile. I approached this by thinking of our actions for the next year, instead of potential, hypothetical reactions. Making assertive statements not only shows confidence, but is a measurable impact for the next modern slavery statement you have to write.
Modern slavery statement’s must be spread through the business, it shows what you stand for and how you act in relation to it. Whilst developing your modern slavery statement, it is important to have this approach too. In a team meeting, we discussed if what was written felt true, purposeful and relevant. It demonstrated that areas I had not considered were missing, and some aspects I had thought were ingrained within the company had not made it to certain corners and needed to be moved to next steps, with aims of having them as key features of our practice by next year.
Reading back my first draft, I had only some of the key attributes of a good modern slavery statement. The heavy stress of our commitment and ethos was present without proof of action. While it is all well and good knowing what your small business believes, it is what you are doing to support those beliefs that is far more important and far more business critical.
Click here to read our new modern slavery statement.