By Melissa Conway
I recently had the pleasure of meeting CLT envirolaw’s Colleen Theron, along with Parosha Chandran and Matt Moriarty. On Election Day, the three popped along to the LexisNexis studio to film a webinar: ‘Tackling trafficking: how to combat modern-day slavery’.
The webinar covered the relevant legal framework as well as providing practical tips for those who wish to make a difference. Crucially, from the discussion came a very real question, posed to all businesses and law firms: do you want to be a leader in the fight against trafficking? If so, read on.
The Legal Framework
Parosha kicked off the webinar by pulling together the international treaties and domestic legislation that comprise the law governing trafficking and modern-day slavery. She highlighted the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and its provisions on transparency in supply chains (on whether they are effective, see my article on Halsbury’s Law Exchange). These have important implications for businesses and the lawyers who advise them. However, Parosha did not shy away from the fact that there is more work to be done and suggested some changes that would further improve the legal response to human trafficking – such as the existence of a civil remedy.
The webinar then turned to focus on some practical steps to combating human trafficking.
Be a Business that Leads
Businesses that want to make a difference must first recognise that they could be contributing to trafficking directly or indirectly. With regard to the former, businesses must be able to identify victims of trafficking in order to eradicate any such instances in their operations. In this respect, both the UNODC and the ILO have helpfully developed trafficking indicators, with which businesses should familiarise themselves. However, in the UK the only way for a potential victim of trafficking to be officially recognised as such is if a certified ‘First Responder’ refers them to the National Referral Mechanism. Matt took the time to explain the process during the webinar – it is well worth watching.
More difficult to identify are indirect contributions to trafficking. These tend to come through the supply chain, so businesses should assess the practices of their suppliers. Colleen’s presentation identified specific indicators of trafficking in the supply chain; highlighted resources available to assist in evaluating supply chains; and challenged businesses truly committed to fighting trafficking to develop proactive policies to manage the related risks.
Be a Law Firm that Leads
Law firms are particularly well placed to combat modern slavery. As Colleen pointed out, they have a role to play both as advisers to their clients and as a business entity.
As advisers, firms should look beyond hard law to policies and principles when determining how best to advise their clients. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are a good starting point for identifying suitable steps beyond mere legal compliance.
Additionally, law firms can themselves act to fight trafficking. This could be achieved by supporting projects and/or law centres. Matt was quick to acknowledge the fact that the Early Legal Intervention project (on which he is working on behalf of the AIRE Centre) has undoubtedly benefited from the pro bono contributions of committed lawyers. Beyond this, law firms could take the further step of developing collaborative partnerships. Parosha identified the recent Signal litigation in the US as a poignant example: several ‘Big law’ firms worked with law centres to take up the case of Indian workers trafficked into the US. The workers were recently awarded millions of dollars in compensation, and the litigation is a clear example of the invaluable role that law firms have to play in the fight against trafficking.
It is crucial that businesses and law firms lead in the fight against trafficking; have you taken the time to think about how to do so?
To watch ‘Tackling Trafficking: how to combat modern day slavery’, click here. It is free to view and available for a year.
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