Measuring the Effectiveness of Actions Taken to Address Modern Slavery: Challenges and Opportunities

Event venue: 
Deloitte, Level 9, 225 George St, Sydney CBD
Event date: 
Tuesday, October 1, 2019 -
17:00 to 18:30

On the 1st of October 2019 the CLMR and AHRI co-hosted an event with Deloitte: “Measuring Effectiveness of Actions Taken to Address Modern Slavery - Challenges and Opportunities”.

The event featured Associate Professor Justine Nolan (UNSW Law), Professor Stephen Frenkel (UNSW Business) and Morgan Ellis (Senior ESG Analyst, MSCI); chaired by Dr Hannah Harris (Macquarie Law).

Paul Dobson (Partner, Risk Advisory, Deloitte) opened the event, which had over 40 attendees from industry, academia and NGO organisations.

Following a brief introduction to the subject matter by Dr Harris, A/ Professor Justine Nolan opened by addressing the importance of going beyond measurement of processes to measurement of outcomes. Measuring outcomes is essential if actions taken by business are to have a meaningful impact on reducing modern slavery. This is a subject raised in her recently released book, co-authored with Martijn Boersma: Addressing Modern Slavery (UNSW Press, 2019).

Professor Stephen Frenkel built on this idea, providing examples from a case study in Bangladesh that is the subject of an international report he recently co-authored: Garment Supply Chains Since Rana Plaza: Governance & Worker Outcomes. Professor Frenkel highlighted the challenges of measuring risks of modern slavery when many work environments harbour significant risks without fitting the mould of "sweat shop" commonly understood to be dangerous to workers. This theme of a continuum of risks and harms and its implications for measurement and evaluation continued throughout discussion.

Morgan Ellis spoke next, providing valuable industry insight. Morgan is a Senior ESG Analyst at MSCI, providing risk assessments and rating models for institutional investors. He explained the process MSCI takes to conducting risk assessments, including in relation to modern slavery risk. He noted that the reliance on publicly available information makes transparency an essential component of effective measurement. He further noted the role of audits, recognising the challenge of interpreting audit results and accounting for improvements in practices over time and in response to failure.

Discussion kicked off with a question about the role for technology in measurement and evaluation. It was generally agreed that technology will be an important factor in the “how” of measurement and that technology could facilitate much needed collaboration and engagement with all layers of the supply chain and relevant stakeholders, including workers on the ground in high risk environments. It was noted that data quality was an important component and securing data from those most at risk was an ongoing challenge.

The Q&A session was lively, with an engaged and knowledgeable audience asking questions on a wide range of topics including: remediation; whistle-blower protection; the limitations of the profit focused business model; alternative mechanisms for accountability; and the role for consumers in driving change.

Questions and discussion continued into the night, with a networking session following the close of formal proceedings. The takeaways were many, but key themes were: 1) the importance of collaboration - across industry, government and civil society, as well as between stakeholders within complex supply chains; 2) the need for greater transparency and high quality data to facilitate evaluation; 3) the importance of continual learning and development of policies and practices in response to experience; and 4) that industry, government, civil society and the public all have a role to play in promoting accountability for ethical conduct in business.