‘The law imposes no penalties, so everything hinges on public pressure. All it needs is for a few companies to provide that guarantee and then pressure may grow on others to follow suit…. Harnessing public disgust and opprobrium is the key to driving out slavery from the supply chains.’
Last month saw the gold-winning garden from 2016’s Chelsea Flower Show bring new meaning to breaking new ground in the fight against Modern Slavery. Now touring Britain, The Modern Slavery Garden, designed by Julie Sergeant, captures the contradiction between appearance and reality which has, for too long, allowed Modern Slavery to thrive behind Britain’s closed doors.
The Garden poses a question of moral courage — the decision, or not, to look through the brightly coloured door to the truth behind it — and, with its wider #AskTheQuestion campaign, also gives us a means to answer it. By giving consumers a mandate — a call to upload product photos to social media and directly question its transparency status — every individual is empowered to play their part.
As The Times’ Melanie Griffiths observes, the Modern Slavery Act requires all companies of a certain size to disclose their efforts to ensure supply chain transparency in a ‘prominent’ website statement —but the penalty remains declarative rather than fiscal, and enforcement is unclear. Modern Slavery cannot be legislated away: change must come from all of us. In a week when a new report estimates the number of slaves globally to be around 46 million — double the current estimate of the International Labour Organisation — the task ahead remains daunting.
This garden and the campaign it supports is a chance to grow the seeds of awareness into a powerful new grassroots campaign — harnessing the consumer power needed to truly drive supply chain accountability. And that is something to be hopeful about.
Read more about the External Rate of Return: the new 360-metric driving transparent, social and sustainable business practices in the new age of Good Business.