Slave-Free Alliance highlights the importance of collaboration during Anti-Slavery Week
Anti-Slavery Week takes place every year here at Slave-Free Alliance, around Anti-Slavery Day on 18th October. It acts as an opportunity to raise awareness of the fact over 49.6 million people in the world today, and an estimated 136,000 people in the UK, are trapped in conditions of modern slavery. This year, we hosted a whole week of events and campaigns (16th – 23rd October) which individuals and organisations took part in.
Anti-Slavery Week holds great significance as an annual event dedicated to raising awareness about the ongoing struggle against modern slavery and human trafficking and powerfully highlights the continued presence of these crimes in our world. The events of Anti-Slavery Week not only galvanise individuals, businesses, and governments to take action, but they also encourage collaboration and the pooling of collective experiences and insights to address the need to protect people’s rights and communities.
At Slave-Free Alliance (SFA), we take a two-fold approach to the week. Firstly, we aim to reach out and raise awareness of modern slavery and exploitation; it’s something that must be drawn out of the shadows and recognised for the horror that it is. Secondly, we engage in debate with our members, academics, and business leaders to explore key topics that affect businesses around the world as they aim for sustainable practices.
This year, we tackled the challenges of Balancing the Environmental and Social concerns in the ESG agenda, advocating for a holistic business approach that doesn’t focus solely on profit or environmental sustainability but on the social impact of decisions and practices. Striking the right balance ensures businesses act responsibly and ethically, fostering employee well-being, community development, and inclusivity.
SFA hosted three events across Anti-Slavery Week, exploring these issues and reaching an audience of almost 200 businesses and individuals, all keen to learn more and spread awareness of the need for responsible and ethical business practices.
Our first event of Anti-Slavery Week partnered with Rachel Hartley of SFA in a LinkedIn Live conversation with Colin Curtis of TBL to explore how organisations can approach the complex issues around modern slavery and exploitation in supply chains. After an hour of lively debate and questions from an interested and responsive audience, the key messages were clear: the importance of taking a people-centric approach as a driver for change – considering those affected by business practices. Colin advocated for breaking down the challenges into steps that are easier to navigate: “The simpler we keep this, the more we are going to drive actions. The issues are not as complex as they seem but are difficult to deal with. Businesses need to put simple steps in place that everyone can get behind.”
On Anti-Slavery Day itself, our collaborative group, Utilities Against Slavery, came together to share insights into the way the utilities sector can work together to identify and mitigate the risks of modern slavery in their organisations. Representatives from Yorkshire Water, Severn Trent, SSE and Scottish Power agreed on the importance of securing buy-in from senior leaders to progress their anti-slavery programmes. Other key takeaways were the importance of knowing your risks and actively collaborating with others in your sector and with experts to upskill everyone in your organisation and establish sector standards and practices.
Gary Booth, Chair of UAS, summed the approach up brilliantly: “To really change culture, it’s about everybody embracing it, where it doesn’t become the culture, it becomes invisibly the norm.”
Our week of events concluded with an ESG Roundtable event moderated by SFA’s Elenor Smith with guest speakers Helen Carter (Action Sustainability), Martha Selwyn and Laura Cooper (SSE) and Joanna Carson (SFA). In this event, our panellists unpicked the challenges of levelling up Environmental and Social considerations and shared their business strategies for ensuring that Human Rights are not forgotten in the pursuit of environmental commitments. Our panellists were passionate about effecting change, and each contributed a nugget of wisdom for businesses to take forward. Helen stressed that “businesses must realise that they must take responsibility to act.” Laura and Martha’s recommendation was for standardisation at a government and global level, so it is not just a few businesses trying to push an agenda forward. Joanna reiterated the message that it’s not about businesses acting in isolation to tackle the issues; much more can be achieved by collaborating and seeking expert guidance.
Anti-Slavery Week has undoubtedly been a thought-provoking and impactful event, full of debate and insights. It has been a powerful reminder that we must all work collaboratively to dismantle this deeply entrenched problem through raising awareness, or within our organizations to drive change forward.
The most potent message resonating from this week’s activities came from Fiona Scott of Scottish Power when she simply reminded us that the fight against modern slavery is not a burden for a select few, but “Modern Slavery is everybody’s responsibility and we must act.”