Modern slavery statements of the 100 largest listed companies on the ASX

The Monash Centre for Financial Studies has ranked the modern slavery statements of the ASX100 with Woolworths, Fortescue Metals, Wesfarmers, Westpac and Ansell leading the way.

However it was a bad report for IDP Education, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Cleanaway, Resmed and Nine Entertainment, which performed poorly on the modern slavery score. 

Modern slavery trends addressed by the Monash Centre

The findings were based on statements from S&P/ASX100 companies from the last financial year, ending June 2021, and identified that there was a wide variation in the information disclosed relating to the modern slavery statements submitted by each of these companies.

This is the first time ASX100 companies have been required to report on modern slavery risk in their supply chains. Of the ASX100 companies examined, the most common modern slavery risks assessed and mentioned was forced labour, child labour and debt bondage.

Modern slavery impacts 40.3m victims globally and $354 billion at-risk products imported by G20 countries. The problem is also prevalent within Australia, with about 1,567 incidents.

The Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act (2018) commenced operation on 1 January 2019.

Entities based in Australia, with an annual consolidated revenue of more than A$100 million must report on the risks of modern slavery in their operations, supply chains and actions.

The team of researchers from the Monash Centre for Financial Studies, in the Monash Business School, included Dr Nga Pham, Dr Bei Cui and Dr Ummul Ruthbah

Lead researcher, Dr Nga Pham says the findings identified that large companies with large employee numbers and big supply spends scored well on modern slavery discourse quality. 

Comments on Monash’s modern slavery trends

“The companies we identified with the best scores prioritise managing modern slavery risks.”

“This meant that they were transparent in how they assess and address the risk of modern slavery practices in their operations and supply chains and monitor such actions against the mandatory criteria outlined by the Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act,” said Dr Pham. 

“It’s important to note that this is the first year that ASX companies have had to report on modern slavery and based on our findings we expect that majority of these companies will take action and improve their disclosure quality in the next financial year,” added Dr Pham. 

The findings also identified that good modern slavery statements showed a history of continued effort in managing modern slavery and other human rights issues. 

The report also outlined key recommendations for companies, investors and regulators. 

“We’ve presented these findings in a way which allows investors to identify priorities in engaging with their portfolio of companies in a transparent and open manner.”

“This means that investors can communicate the possible areas of concern and modern slavery risks relevant to each company or each sector.”

“They help companies to enhance their due diligence and remediation processes, while ensuring the board has oversight of modern slavery and human rights risks,” said Dr Pham.

For companies to improve their management of modern slavery risks, it is recommended that their exposure to modern slavery risks in the supply chains should be assessed.

This exposure is based on the demographics of their suppliers, the economic size of their supply spend and the nature of their transactions with each supplier.

Companies were also encouraged to strengthen their due diligence and remediation process, while engaging and educating their suppliers to mitigate future risks within their supply chain.