Implications of Modern Slavery Act for businesses & the importance of risk management

– Hear from Deeti Vyas, Chief of Business Longevity at Global Bright Futures on her views on what inspires her to help embed sustainability in business, how to overcome stumbling blocks and  how the Modern Slavery Act impacts businesses. –

Don’t miss our webinar on steps you can take to address Modern Slavery in your supply chains and operations.

Introduction to Deeti

Deeti’s expertise lie in building a business case for sustainability.  Twelve years ago, Deeti left the world of mainstream finance to pursue her interest in bridging the worlds of sustainability and business. Deeti combines her financial acumen and experience with her interest in integrating sustainability performance in all aspects of decision making across sectors.

Let’s hear from Deeti

1. Can you describe Global Bright Futures as if the reader knew nothing about it or the market?

In simple terms, Global Bright Futures was set up by three women who wanted to change how business is done. We work with companies to help them be profitable while at the same time reducing their (negative) impacts on society and the planet.

Many companies don’t have a full understanding of how their business impacts the environment or the people that make or supply their products. When they do have an understanding, often they do not know where to start or are overwhelmed by the challenges they face. Our aim is to make the process of becoming a more sustainable company simple, manageable and achievable.

2. Who or what inspired you to do what you’re doing now?

Whilst working in the finance industry, I was aware of the role that finance and money plays in making things happen (or not happen). I soon realized that finance can be used to achieve positive impacts and I wanted to use my financial skills and acumen to help companies achieve a greater purpose than just earning higher profits. I wanted to help companies be profitable whilst generating positive impacts or reducing negatives ones as a result of their existence. I then left the world of mainstream finance to pursue a Masters in Business and Environment and have not looked back.

Since working in the world of sustainable finance and fashion over the last 10 years, I have really been inspired by the notion that business and the for profit sector can be a real enabler and force for good. I believe that a business built on foundations of improving livelihoods/society and the environment, while earning a profit will remain a viable business for the long term.  

 

3. What do you find are companies’ biggest stumbling blocks in this area and what are the best ways you’ve found to overcome them?

What I have observed is that companies generally have a desire to do and be good, they just don’t always know where and how to start. I find that breaking things down and identifying what is material to a business, in terms of risks and opportunities from a sustainable business point of view can help bring some clarity on the first steps to take.

The other stumbling block for businesses is financial budget. Sustainability teams are often competing for budgets with other departments that seemingly take priority. It is surprising to see that some businesses still see spending money on building a sustainable business model or tackling sustainability risks in the business as an option rather than a necessity because they see the implications being too far out in the future. A good way to overcome this is to highlight and quantify the opportunities and benefits to them, and also show them that it doesn’t have to be an expensive undertaking. We at Global Bright Futures know and understand these constraints, hence we set ourselves up to act as an ‘outsourcing’ team to provide a cost effective solution to having to pay for full time in house sustainability teams.

4. What are three main implications of the UK Modern Slavery Act for businesses?

The first implication is the consequence of non compliance, where a company that meets the criteria fails to make a statement on modern slavery. It is not yet clear how the Home Office will deal with companies that have failed to make a statement. They could go down the path of ‘name and shame’, which would cause companies to cause a reactionary approach, rather being proactive. There is also the issue of reputational risk if modern slavery is not tackled.

The second implication is that a company has found some evidence of modern slavery in their business or supply chain while preparing their statement in response to the MSA. The big question is, what do they do next? How do they tackle it and minimise reputational damage?

The third implication is change. Through the process of developing their modern slavery statement, companies will gain better insights into labour practices in their operations and supply chains. One can only hope that the process will result in better/more robust labour policies being put in place, better/closer relationships with suppliers, better trained staff.

5. If a CFO of a company asked you for your advice on addressing Modern Slavery and you only had a few minutes to give them your best tip, what would that be?

The first question I would ask a CFO is how long do you want the business to be around? The only thing to say to a CFO is that ignoring modern slavery or not digging deep enough into the issue, may result in benefiting from cheap labour in the short term, but in the long term, in the world of social media, could be a financial disaster for the company resulting from reputational damage. As a CFO, you are a risk and asset manager of your business. If you do your job properly, you need to look at the risks your business faces as a result of modern slavery potentially lurking in your business and also protect business assets, especially intangible ones like reputation.

6. What action would you want the reader to take?

Whether it be looking into modern slavery, exploring a business model on a circular economy, or any other sustainability issue or opportunity, the first action I want a reader (assuming it is a business) to take is to make a decision on what kind of business it wants to be and then act accordingly.

Secondly, I won’t be shy about this, I want them to hire Global Bright Futures to help them either embark on their journey or move further along on their path. I say this because I truly believe in our services and ability to work with companies to become more resilient in the face of uncertainty.

 

Do you know that your Modern Slavery statement is due as soon as possible after your financial year-end, at the latest 6 months after the financial year-end?

Do you know if you have modern slavery lurking in your business operations or supply chains?

Do you know how to tackle modern slavery if it is found in your supply chain?

We can support you on being prepared for the Modern Slavery Act in the UK, find out more via this pdf