Susan Carland: Hi, I'm Dr Susan Carland, and welcome back to what happens next. This is the third and final episode in our series on modern slavery.
As you heard in previous episodes, there are a lot of challenges when it comes to tackling the really complex issue of slavery. But from a consumer perspective there, actually are plenty of changes we can do to help reduce it. So in this episode we'll find out what individuals could do to drive change. Modern slavery researcher Laura Vidal has some great practical tips we can all use to help reduce our slavery footprint.
Hi I’m Laura Vidal, I’m a PhD candidate completing a PhD in criminology at Monash University and my area of research is focused on Australia's response to forced marriage, defined in Australia as a form of modern slavery. For the last 10 years, I have supported women, girls, men and families who have experienced trafficking and slavery in Australia and overseas. And I currently work as a project manager for Good Shepherd, Australia, New Zealand.
Susan: Laura Vidal, welcome to the podcast. Imagine I’m an individual and I get the sense that maybe exploitation is occurring in a workplace. A staff member might say something to me in a certain situation that I think ‘Oh geez, I think this person might be being exploited’ because it can happen in Australia. This isn't just something that happens far away. What should we do? What's the right thing to do in that situation?
Laura: It is absolutely undeniable that trafficking and slavery happens in Australia and it happens in all kinds of ways in all kinds of industries. And when Australia first introduced its legislation. It was very, very centrally focused on the sex industry. And then, as we learnt more about it and the law changed in 2013 where we introduced a forced labour offense, it started to bring visibility to some more commercial industries that, you know, everyday people might have exposure and access to. That’s the thing about individual action, if identifying somebody in exploitation, it's a very ... you need to take some considerable caution around that. And by no means, you know, sort of promoting any sort of vigilantism around identifying exploitation in a in a workplace, because essentially the person who may be exploited, still needs to be able to make an informed choice about what their next steps are. The response In Australia is heavily led by criminal justice response and the people who are primarily responsible for investigating trafficking and slavery crimes ae the Australian Federal Police so people can absolutely contact the federal police if they are, um, you know, have some information or are concerned about somebody’s safety. Naturally, if it's an imminent danger kind of situation, Triple zero and a follow up call to the AFP is, you know, really appropriate. And the other thing would I guess, to be to have some information about what the actual indicators of exploitation are, because there are, there is a difference between what a bad job and what is actually slavery. And the difference is the freedom to leave. And so you need to be really tuned into what the actual, what the actual indicators of that are and they’re things like, you know, being forced to work through violence or threats or excessively long hours that you're not being paid for. You can't freely leave your workplace, those kinds of things that you know, restrict somebody’s freedom essentially, um, and then really trafficking and slavery presents as a narrative, you can't look at any of these indicators in isolation, so it's a very sensitive and needs to be carefully managed situation. But in saying that, in my time supporting victims of trafficking and slavery in Australia, we did receive referral to our service from people who had simply asked the question ‘Is this a good place to work?’ And the person felt safe enough to say, ‘Well, no, actually it isn't. This is what I'm experiencing and I need some help’, and that has been, you know, a situation that I have encountered and then the other situation that I've encountered as well, is somebody watching survivor advocates or other people sharing their stories through the media and being in a lounge room, so, for example, a domestic worker who generally wouldn't have access to anything because they're in a suburban home that nobody knows they’re there, might see something on the television and say, ‘hold on a minute, that's my life. That's my situation’, you know. So it absolutely happens.
So I guess the kind of two takeaways would be: Understand the indicators of exploitation and making sure that it's not just a bad job that somebody can leave. And the second thing is to be able to, you know, safely refer that person to the federal police, knowing that that's what they want, because the last thing that we want to do we really strip that person who's already experiencing, you know, a reduction in their power, of their agency to make that choice about what next for them, um, and so it's really important to also refer to some other specialist NGO. So if you are concerned, there are specialist NGOs that you can just call up and chat about what you've learned and they can help guide you through that.
And they're things like the Salvation Army runs a trafficking and slavery safe house, Anti Slavery Australia runs a legal service and the Australian Red Cross delivers Australia's support program. So any of those NGOs would take a call and help you get through what it is you've identified that you might be concerned about.
Susan: Ok, some great practical tips there. While we're on the practical train,what what are some things that individuals can do if they want to avoid contributing to slavery? You said it could be really difficult to know when we buy a product. Are there things that we can do?
Laura: Yeah, absolutely. So there are some really great apps - Good On You is a really great app, which is focused on the fashion industry, and it rates brands around their impact on people, plants and animals. So if you download that when you're in the store, you can search the brand, and it will kind of give you a rating as to how well that brand performing on the issues that you care about, so I’d definitely give that a download. I’d also jump on and check out the Fashion Revolution in Australia, and that's a really practical campaign around, um, you know, engaging in the fashion industry around ethical decision making. Look for the fair trade certification and logos whilst your purchasing tea, coffee and chocolate it's on there, it will say fair trade on the packaging, and it's increasingly becoming available in supermarkets. So make that choice over another choice. Um, there are another couple of great websites - slaveryfootprint.org which can map you through particular product supply chains so you can make informed choices about purchasing. Um, and there's endslaverynow.org which does a similar thing, so there's lots of sort of online platforms to do your research. And, the other thing, I would say, you know, check out organisations’ or brands’ sustainability and ethical procurement policies and if they don't exist, ask the question of them and say ‘you know, I'm really interested in purchasing this product, but I want to know the answers to these questions’ and then make those decisions.
One of the things that I would sort of caution around, however, you know it's just a little note to think about, and that's around boycotting, um, certain things and to think carefully about boycotting. Because generally if we learn about something really bad, we kind of go ‘Oh we're not gonna purchase from that brand anymore, that's shocking’. But what underlies that essentially is work that might be being undertaken, obviously in less than ideal conditions, but it is still work that people are engaged with. And when you take that away entirely, it actually makes the situation worse for them, and there are actually so really great research in that space that looks at the implications of boycotting on the producers themselves, the people that we think we're protecting by no longer purchasing from there. So the alternative to that is actually proactively engaging in putting consumer pressure on the brand and company to do better and to provide better conditions for the people that are working and supplying goods to them.
Susan: That's a very important distinction, I think.
Laura: Yeah, yeah,
Susan: Boycotting can actually have these terrible, unintended negative consequences from what you're saying and actually end up doing more harm than good. Whereas contacting a business or brand and saying ‘I love your pants, um, please, would you consider making them fair trade’, Or ‘I'd love to know more about what you're doing to support your workers’, that would be a more positive way.
Laura: Yeah, it'll have a more positive and longer term impact on both the workers as well as the brand and the consumers. So we don't want to be creating a situation where people are losing whatever livelihood it is that they have, because that would be significantly disadvantageous
for, um, the workers themselves.
Susan: Mmm. I I imagine implementing these fair trade rules must be really difficult. I remember speaking to some garment factory workers in Cambodia, actually, and saying, you know, I've heard now that there's been some new rules implemented, and so you get the minimum wage is being raised, that must be a good thing. And they said, ‘well, unfortunately, the problem is now our bosses just tell us we have to make more per hour because we have to be paid more’. So it must be a very complicated thing to try to improve without it being undercut. How do you get around that?
Laura: Yeah, Look, it's the question of the day, to be honest, um and, you know, the more standards you sort of introduce, um, workers do say the harder it is to actually, um, navigate that and you know, things like Fair Trade Certification gives people the right to unionise, for example, because in many countries it’s illegal to unionise. Workers cannot organise around their own rights without facing repercussions for that, so then we'll never know. So you know those workers that you spoke to, you know, unless you're going and engaging with them and understanding of the practical implications of these decisions that are being made away from you, um, you'll never know. And so I think, the really important thing is to support workers in their place to organise and to be part of consultations around what standards mean for them and to understand when they're introduced, what are the implications of that. Because if they don't work, we need to do something else, and so we often forget, actually, about the workers at the bottom of the supply chain and we really need to be doing much better about that kind of cross-regional you know, consultation with workers and support them to organise around their own rights without repercussions.
Susan: Laura, this is absolutely fascinating, but more importantly, very practically useful. I feel like there is, that there are things we can do. It doesn't all seem entirely hopeless which is, ah….
Laura: No, It’s not entirely hopeless. And the more people get on board and the more people ask these questions, the more the movement gets, gets legs and it's not just a small pocket of noisy people saying the same thing, you know, it has to become a mainstream movement. It has to be a question that people ask, and if we can all start doing that, it really will help build some accountability. And look, There are way more complicated things that businesses and academics and lawyers and everybody is doing to kind of get underneath all of this.
But for your everyday person, having awareness that modern slavery happens, not just in the products they purchase but in Australia, is really important and having some handy tips
on an app, in your phone, in your notes about what you do, if there's something you're worried about, and acting on it could change somebody’s life. So I think it's really important conversation to have.
Susan: Laura Vidal, thank you so much.
Laura: You're welcome.
Susan: As with so many of these complex global challenges. We've found government and industry have to play a role. Kimberley Cole, economist, Monash alumna and risk expert, has been helping companies understand and act on Modern Slavery in their supply chains for more than a decade. She spoke to us from her base in Hong Kong, where she is global head of sales at Lynk Global, and she gave us some advice on what businesses can do to manage what is emerging as a major risk factor for many corporations.
Kimberley Cole: Hi, I'm Kimberley Cole. I am the global sales director for Lynk Global. We are an expert network and knowledge platform, head office out of Hong Kong. Previously, I was with Thompson Reuters for almost 30 years as I joined them straight out of Monash University after completing my economics degree. I am also known as Chief Risky Woman and I have a
Podcast called Risky Women Radio and Risky Women is all about connecting, celebrating
in championing women in risk, regulation and compliance.
Susan: You're a specialist in risk. How risky is it for businesses not to address slavery in their supply lines?
Kimberley: Obviously, you know, there's a lot of different risks for businesses, regardless of it, you know, clearly not being the right thing to have modern slavery in your supply chain. And just like environmental impact, which I think, if you look at, what's going on with the way that you know, with the attention that even boards give the environmental issues or the way that they measure or track and look at their environmental impact, and the way that’s approached, slavery is another one of those you know, highly reputational issues that need to be addressed. And as you can see it’s a very big risk to the business as it is really, you know, seen as both by your consumers as well as by your employees, and I think, um, you know, that's where it will … well, no one wants to work for a company that is, you know, seen to be doing the wrong thing.
Adidas were one of the first people to put in place, um, a person who was, you know, solely identified with, you know, trying to address the problems or any issues of exploitation in that the supply chains. But I think now if you look at, you know many, companies they've got ethical sourcing and sustainability people, and, you know, in Australia there’s some fabulous,
fabulous companies that have really knowledgeable people in those places - so Cotton On, there’s a lady by the name of Sonya Rand, another Monash graduate, who I went to Cambodia with on a Hagar human rights tour, and she's done a lot of fabulous work, both at Coles, looking at all of their supply chains and the way they operate and now Cotton On. So I think the focus is certainly there now, with Australian companies and obviously more globally. And a lot of that comes down, of course, to regulation and you know, that's when regulation can be a benefit.
So, obviously the UK introduced their Modern Slavery Act in 2015 and Australia introduced their own Modern Slavery Act in December 2018 and so now the fact that a requirement is there obviously it means companies have to take more notice. So I think that was a huge achievement, especially for Australia to implement that Modern Slavery Act and there were ere was a lot of fabulous people, including, you know, Walk Free who did amazing work on that. But many others as well in Australia, you know, pushing to get that through.
Susan: I want to end by asking you what steps individuals can take to reduce their reliance, even inadvertent, on modern slavery. But also, what can businesses do?
Kimberley: Yeah, look, I think there were many, many, many things that individuals and businesses can do . I think the first one is, really, educate yourself. Educate yourself as a consumer as to where are the high risk areas and what you, what, you know, potentially impact you’re having by supporting that. There's a really good app called slaveryfootprint.org which starts with how many slaves work for you, which is a bit, you know, shocking, but it's a very interesting little process to walk through.
But yes, educating yourself, listening to experts - there are so many people out there - I mean in Australia Walk Free is brilliant and they have done a fantastic job with getting, you know, consistent data that everyone now, sort of, relies on, so their website’s excellent.
Um, you know, there’s Liberty Asia, Liberty Global and Mekong Club that I mentioned, are Hong Kong based institutions - they’re always, always doing talks here. There is Slavery Australia in Australia and there are many institutions who are doing fantastic, you know, educational theories, and their just websites as well have some excellent information.
I mean, I think as employees, especially if you're in a high risk industry, where you know that this difficulty in supply chains, I think, you know, you can speak up and add pressure and, you know, in many cases, maybe that is to be a whistleblower
Um, And then I think you know, whatever skills you've got, you've got the opportunity to apply those. So if you're a lawyer, obviously you can get involved and use the law and the regulations. If you're in journalist, you can write about it.
But maybe it's just time. Or maybe it's money that you know, you've got that you can,
you know, get involved. And some of that might be the way that you invest, you know. But increasingly, people are looking at much more environmental, social and governance issues around where they will place their investment dollars and I think that's a very good way to start. I mean, if you want to understand, if you want to look at the problem, there is a film that’s just been released called Buoyancy in Australia, it’s up for several awards, it’s about a Cambodian boy who is, um, uh, trafficked into slavery in the fishing industry and so I’d recommend you go and see that if you really want to see the problem as it’s told in that story and hopefully that spurs people into action. I’m hoping to show that film here in Hong Kong early in the new a year.
Susan: Kimberly Cole Thank you so much for your time, and particularly for joining us from Hong Kong. Some fantastic advice and serious food for thought there. All the resources we mentioned will be linked on our website lens.monash.edu/whathappensnext. The slavery footprint quiz we talked about earlier is at slaveryfootprint.org, and if you take it, I think you'll be surprised to discover just how many slaves are actually working for you. Special thanks to our guests today, Laura Videl and Kimberley Cole. Thanks for listening. I'll see you on our next episode of What Happens Next?
An estimated 40.3 million men, women, and children were victims of modern slavery on any given day in 2016. The current Global Estimates do not cover all forms of modern slavery; for example, organ trafficking, child soldiers, or child marriage. *
Everyone has a ‘slavery footprint’. Today’s experts demonstrate just how big our own footprint may be. The good news? Conscious efforts by businesses and individuals can shrink it considerably. Monash Criminologist Laura Vidal has been helping communities and organisations take practical action to reduce their slavery footprint for more than a decade. Monash alumna Kimberley Cole has been a leading activist on the need for businesses to tackle modern slavery in their supply chains. In this episode she offers practical advice for industry on steps they can take.
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