A Modern Slavery Act for New Zealand, could help you shop guilt-free

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Claire Gray
/ Categories: Advocacy

If you’ve been around Tearfund for more than five minutes, you’ll know that one of the big global injustices we’re seeking to help end is modern slavery. Slavery isn’t something that ended a long time ago. In fact, there are more people trafficked and enslaved today than during the transatlantic slave trade years ago. Currently, there are 40.3 million people trapped in slavery with cases found in every country, including New Zealand. As history can attest, this isn’t an injustice that any of us can tackle alone. To end modern slavery, we need a collaborative movement that addresses the issue from multiple angles. This is, in part is already being accomplished through our overseas partners and our research in ethical fashion. But, to further the movement toward Modern Slavery Legislation in NZ, Kiwis like you can have a significant role.

Ultimately, the people this impacts the most are those 24.9 million people trapped in forced labour. We want those people to have their rights respected and to be able to live and work in environments that contribute to their economic empowerment and dignity. 

To make this happen, we need your help! Will you sign the petition and tell your friends and family to do the same? Sign here. 



Millions of people are forced to work long hours to make goods we buy, for little or no pay.



Partners Overseas
Tearfund’s partners overseas are diligently working to prevent trafficking and slavery. They work tirelessly to prosecute organised criminal networks responsible for trafficking people into slavery and provide protection and rehabilitation for survivors.


Here in New Zealand
As you might know, for the past five years, we’ve released the Ethical Fashion Report and Guide to tackle modern slavery from a different angle—working with consumers to understand how our everyday purchasing decisions can perpetuate modern slavery. This project researches the supply chains of fashion companies and assesses what measures are in place to protect workers from exploitation throughout the supply chains. This allows consumers to vote with their wallets against exploitation and slavery.



Supply chains are so complex now, that companies find it difficult to know whether the supplied materials are not free from slave labour without being forced to trace them.



The Next Step: Legislation
This year, we’re taking the next step in this area and tackling modern slavery from a new angle: legislation. This might not sound as glamourous as stories of kicking down brothel doors and rescuing people, but it is a highly effective measure to address modern slavery. 

Of the 40.3 million people enslaved today, 24.9 million are coerced into forced labour. This means that hidden in the supply chains of the everyday goods and products you buy, are people who are forced to work long hours in unsafe conditions for little or no pay. Sometimes they are held against their will.  

This might surprise you, but in our globalised world, supply chains are complex and often stretch across multiple countries. In many industries, supply chains are no longer vertically integrated, meaning a series of independent businesses now form the supply chain for a single product. This means a company selling a t-shirt or a laptop may not have any knowledge about where and how the raw materials for that product were produced or sourced.  As a result, companies are importing and selling products in New Zealand that were made through the exploitation and enslavement of people. 

For many years, there was little or no attention given to exploitation and slavery happening in supply chains. Companies could get away with either blatantly exploiting people for a profit, or turning a blind eye to what was happening in their supply chain, arguing that protecting the people who made their products was not their responsibility. 



Some companies are importing and selling products in New Zealand that were made through the exploitation and enslavement of people.



In recent years, this has changed. Several countries have introduced legislation—usually called a Modern Slavery Act—that forces companies to have a degree of transparency about their supply chains and holds them to account. New Zealand does not have this legislation in place, and we, along with a network of other NGOs, businesses and individuals, plan to change that! Our first step was this open letter to Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woods.

We are calling on the New Zealand government to introduce a Modern Slavery Act to New Zealand. This legislation will force companies to take steps to firstly understand the modern slavery risks that exist in their supply chain, then take action and publicly report on this. With robust modern slavery legislation, consumers will be able to have more assurance that the products they are purchasing are slavery-free.  


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Claire Gray

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