Why Aussie businesses need to rethink their complaint processes to tackle modern slavery
6 April 2021 at 5:08 pm
Global Compact Network Australia has released new business resources on effective modern slavery grievance mechanisms
Australian businesses are being urged to redesign their grievance mechanisms to ensure they are effectively addressing modern slavery in their global supply chains.
While there are an estimated 40.3 million people living in modern slavery conditions worldwide, around 40 per cent are in private sector supply chains.
With the lack of transparency around global supply chains exacerbated by COVID-19 border closures, Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA) has launched two publications to help Australian businesses implement effective grievance mechanisms to address modern slavery.
GCNA executive director Kylie Porter told Pro Bono News that effective grievance mechanisms – such as general speak-up hotlines or human rights focused complaints procedures – were an essential part of a business’s human rights portfolio.
She said they were one of the actions that businesses can take to ensure that they’re addressing modern slavery when it occurs in their operations and supply chain.
“The aim of them is to establish a consistent and trusted process that enables concerned parties to speak up, communicate issues and, where necessary, seek remedy without any form of retaliation,” Porter said.
“The whole notion of grievance mechanisms is taken from the UN Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights and falls very squarely into the responsibility of business to respect all human rights.”
One of the resources provides a case study that demonstrates good practice in addressing modern slavery complaints and includes examples of operational level, supplier partnership and multi-stakeholder grievance mechanisms.
The other resource offers practical advice, flags key considerations, and outlines good practice steps for designing and implementing effective grievance mechanisms for businesses.
These resources are designed to not only help businesses address modern slavery better, but also report more comprehensively under the Australian Modern Slavery Act.
Porter said it was all about continuous learning, so businesses can update their grievance mechanisms to be more effective and ensure incidents don’t go unreported.
She said in the next 12 to 18 months, it would be great to see Australian businesses utilising these resources to help rethink their own processes and redesign the grievance mechanisms currently in place.
“The challenge with some mechanisms is that if they’re not fit-for-purpose and businesses aren’t designing them with a holistic view, they can become a checkbox activity and we don’t want that to happen,” she said.
“That means more people are vulnerable and it leaves the business open to risk.
“And we think it’s our responsibility to provide the tools needed by business to ensure they can consider all the different elements that come together to make an effective grievance mechanism and reduce modern slavery.”