The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery observed this week also marks one year since the Australian property industry launched a new partnership to raise awareness and improve collaboration around one of the world’s most serious issues.

Last year, the Property Council launched a platform questioning key suppliers about the action they were taking to assess and address modern slavery risks across shared operations and industry supply chains.

The initiative was spearheaded by 15 leading property companies and Property Council members.There are now 25 organisations supporting the initiative. The platform has already engaged with over 2,650 suppliers, of whom 900 have completed or are completing the assessment and 1,750 are currently being on-boarded.

Francesca Muskovic, National Policy Manager Sustainability and Regulatory Affairs at the Property Council of Australia, says that “taking action to address modern slavery in your operations and supply chains makes good business sense, protecting against possible harm to people and your business as well as increasing investor and consumer confidence.

“We see that borne out by the number of business coming together through collaboration, all sharing tens of thousands of suppliers and billions of dollars in annual procurement spend.”

Initial data from the platform, delivered by Informed 365, shows that 12 per cent of respondents do not yet understand or have a general awareness of where modern slavery may exist in their operations and supply chains. Seven per cent of respondents manufacture products overseas or maintain foreign operations that contribute to their delivery, and 47 per cent of respondents use sub-contracting or third-party recruitment organisations.

Robin Mellon, CEO of Better Sydney and Project Manager for the Property Council’s Modern Slavery Working Group and Supplier Platform, stated: “When it comes to working with your supply chains to achieve real change, partnership is the new leadership.

“Asking suppliers what they know, what they are doing and what processes they are following around human rights and modern slavery can help establish a shared approach to strengthen relationships, build capacity across sectors, highlight supply chain weaknesses or knowledge gaps, and establish grievance mechanisms that actually work – ensuring the voice of the worker can be heard.”

Margot Black, Head of Sustainability and Community at Charter Hall and the Co-Chair of the Modern Slavery Working Group, said “Supply chains through Australia’s property and construction industry are complex, with many suppliers working in different capacities for multiple organisations at the same time. 

“Rolling out a uniform platform across the industry increases reporting efficiency, encourages greater transparency in supply chain management, and helps us see the strengths and weaknesses on which we need to focus to achieve continuous improvement and productive partnerships around priority solutions.”

The Property Council welcomes other examples of industry collaboration around human rights and modern slavery including the Australian Telecommunications Leadership Statement on Human Rights and Modern Slavery through the Telco Together Foundation and the report ‘Respecting human rights’ delivered by the Minerals Council of Australia and Pillar Two, setting out guidance to assist mining companies to identify and manage modern slavery risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Understanding Modern Slavery

According to the International Labour Organisation, an estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage. The Modern Slavery Act 2018 established Australia’s national Modern Slavery Reporting Requirement in which ‘modern slavery’ describes situations where coercion, threats or deception are used to exploit victims and undermine or deprive them of their freedom. The Act defines modern slavery as including eight types of serious exploitation: trafficking in persons, slavery, servitude, forced marriage, forced labour, debt bondage, deceptive recruiting for labour or services, and the worst forms of child labour.

Matt Francis – Property Council of Australia 0467 777 220

Robin Mellon – Better Sydney 0434 495 388