Marks and Spencer leads the way tackling modern slavery

30th May 2019


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Marks and Spencer has topped an annual ranking of Britain's 100 largest listed companies for its compliance with the UK Modern Slavery Act and good practice in human rights.

Development International's Global Governance FTSE 100 Index shows that 87% of the 24 companies that reported in 2019 have demonstrated year-on-year improvements.

Tesco, British American Tobacco, and Morrisons complete the top five, while NMC Health, the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust, and the Ashtead Group have still never reported their progress.

The ranking is based on companies' compliance and conformance with the UK Modern Slavery Act (MSA) and good practice in human rights, and although progress has been made in the last year, the average improvement was just over 1%.

The marginal average improvement of those captured in the 2019 and 2018 benchmarks demonstrates a seismic shift in corporate culture is still to happen, said Dr Shamir Ghumra, BREEAM director at BRE, which developed the Ethical Labour Sourcing Standard (ELS) BES 6002.

There needs to be a rapid acceleration if we are to reverse the numbers of men, women and children who are caught in modern slavery in the UK and internationally.

Ocado Group PLC demonstrated the equal highest year-on-year improvement of 26%, catapulting the grocery delivery company into the index's top 10 for the first time.

Building materials company CRH PLC also improved 26%, jumping 57 places in the league table. Ferguson PLC, a distributor of plumbing and heating products, improved by 22% year-on-year.

In the 2019 benchmark, of the 24 PLCs who have thus far published a statement, the average combined score is 48%. Last year their average combined score was 46.8%.

Almost all of the organisations in the FTSE 100 that were assessed in the 2018 benchmark have published at least one statement detailing their actions and intent to be compliant with the MSA.

While most of the companies on the index are largely compliant with the modern slavery disclosure requirements of the law, only two of the 24 companies who have filed statements thus far in 2019 are 100% legally compliant.

Another matter is the spirit of the MSA statements, proxied through the application of industry good practice in anti-slavery supply chain measures. A signifiant 62% of the FTSE 100 who have published an MSA statement in 2019, and who were therefore analysed, do not enforce the 'employer pays' principle.

“Civil society holds this principle as fundamental to mitigate modern day slavery,“ BRE commented in a press release.

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