The Solution to Supply Chain Transparency

In February 2017, Michael Endsor of King’s College London demonstrated how Open Sources can be used in investigations into organised crime. In particular, he noted the use of social media in criminal investigations. By studying hashtags on Twitter and Instagram he was able to discover key individuals within a London based drug gang. The analysis of these sources and related digital data is called Open Source Intelligence (OSINT).

OSINT has been instrumental in identifying organised criminal activities. There is no reason the same methodology cannot be used on a larger scale when investigating Modern Slavery.

As you may have noticed over our past few blogs, Neotas have identified issues associated with Modern Slavery. The Modern Slavery act (read more here) has been a clear step in the right direction. It has, however, brought with it a number of problems regarding a company’s responsibility to ensure they are not employing slave labour. And whilst the debate regarding how companies should be investigating their supply chain continues, there are still thousands of men, women and children affected by Modern Slavery issues.

Supply chain analysis for large scale organisations is a daunting task. In order to present a true reflection of their multi-tiered supply chain with confidence, they must leverage the latest technologies and techniques. OSINT is a tried and tested technique that consistently identifies additional information across a variety of criminal areas. There’s no reason it can’t do the same for Modern Slavery.

However unfortunate it may be, it is only once forward-thinking companies conduct this kind of due-diligence that others will follow.

OSINT techniques improve every day, and with criminals unaware of the power they hold, corporations have a unique opportunity to get ahead of slave traders for the first time.

-Reece Wickens

The issue with supply chain transparency

It has been 3 years since the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act in the United Kingdom, and so far it has produced mixed results. Whilst the percentage of businesses unmasking slavery in their supply chains has risen, the act is still struggling to apply serious pressure to the global companies most at risk from modern slavery. With no direct sanctions for failure to produce a statement, and no enforced directives about what the statement should entail, many firms still appear to be placing the abolition of slavery at the back of their ‘to do’ list. 

In October 2017, corporate responsibility watchdog CORE highlighted that, whilst most big-name brands had published a statement in line with the act, most statements were ‘short on detail and lacked transparency’. In 2018 a similar report found that more than 40% of government suppliers failed to meet the minimum level of compliance. Companies were paying lip-service to the act without any proof of substance or behavioural change. 

One issue multi-national corporations have is the broad scope of their supply chains. With hundreds or thousands of primary suppliers, each with multiple suppliers of their own, it is a daunting task to follow each avenue back to the raw material source. Instead, many firms are choosing to publicly state their opposition to slavery, while sending questionnaires to suppliers asking them to promise they don’t use slaves. Rather than putting pressure on those companies employing slave labour, this approach merely reinforces the shirking of responsibility that the act sought to remove. 

If firms based in the UK want to prove they are taking this issue seriously, it is time to start taking actions that have an impact. 3 years is a long enough adjustment period; now they need to seek strategies and due diligence approaches that have a far-reaching effect on the state of the world. 

-Sam Haslam

Neotas wins the World Cup

An England team picked by Neotas would win the football World Cup. It’s a bold claim, I know, but considering recent tournament attempts, you might as well hear us out.

England have suffered from a team that never seems to gel. We have had plenty of brilliant players. The “golden generation” included some of the best midfielders that the country has turned out from Gerrard to Lampard to Scholes yet we consistently underachieved. They never seemed to click and play well together.

It has always seemed like the team has been thrown together by a tick-box process of: this player plays for a well-established team; this player has scored a lot of goals for his club; etc. There has never been any effort to go further and understand the true character, behaviours, motivations, personality and backgrounds of the players, all things that have a sizeable impact on the team’s performance.

This is what Neotas does for due diligence. Our analysts go beyond the standard background checks to reveal a deeper understanding of hires and investments to aid companies with compliance, KYC and SMR regulations and help build a workforce they have confidence in.

The Neotas process would produce an England team that has gone through a vetting like never before. Our understanding of the players allowing us to build a team in perfect balance that complements each player’s abilities and personality. A team that could win the cup! In reality, whilst our due diligence process is like no other, our footballing brains might not be up to par. It’s probably best we stick with compliance and KYC.

We wish England and every other team competing in Russia the best of luck but if another “Iceland incident” happens then maybe it won’t be long before the FA comes knocking on the Neotas door…

-Alex Penn

Understanding the Modern Slavery Act

To many, slavery is a problem of the past. The unfortunate truth is that it’s still a global problem. Latest estimates from the UN rank modern slavery as the second-largest criminal activity in the world.

In 2015, the UK introduced the Modern Slavery Act. It was the first of its kind to specifically address slavery and trafficking in the 21st century. The Act enhanced support and protection for victims and gave law enforcement the tools needed to target today’s perpetrators.

The Act also included a provision to encourage businesses to take control of their supply chains and ensure that they are slavery free. This legislation was developed in the wake of stories such as the abuse of undocumented migrants in the Irish fishing industry and slavery linked to Thai prawns being sold in UK supermarkets.

Supply chain transparency, falling under Section 54, is an important addition to the Act. One designed to encourage companies to be proactive in their ethical considerations of suppliers. It applies to any commercial organisation that provides goods or services within the UK and has a turnover of £36 million or more. If a company falls within this remit they must publish an annual financial statement that outlines steps taken to ensure no slavery is present anywhere within the business or its supply chain.

The impact was immediate. Prosecutions increased from 12 in 2015 to 51 in 2016.

However, modern slavery is still a continuing concern. In 2017, consultant firm Verisk Maplecroft recorded increases in modern slavery risk across 20 EU countries.

The Modern Slavery Act has become a template for other European countries hoping to improve transparency in businesses and supply chains. In February 2017, France adopted similar legislation. The Netherlands passed a new bill investigating child labour within company operations and supply chains. Across the pond, the USA has made strides against modern slavery with the 2010 California Transparency in Supply Chain Act and the yet to be passed Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2015.

The fight against modern slavery continues but through the Modern Slavery Act and similar legislation around the world, we are beginning to move in the right direction.

-Alex Penn