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Role of exchanges in fight against modern slavery and human trafficking

29 November 2022 - As part of the “FAST: Convening Africa” conference hosted by Finance Against Slavery & Trafficking (FAST) in Cape Town on 29-30 November 2022, UNSSE Senior Specialist Corli le Roux moderated a panel discussion to explore the role of exchanges in the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking.

Exchange representatives Nareerat Santhayati (Vice President, Sustainable Development Department, The Stock Exchange of Thailand) and Wendy Boit (Senior Officer, Corporate Affairs & Investor Relations, Nairobi Securities Exchange) were joined by Serena Grant (Head of Business Engagement, Walk Free and Secretariat at Investors Against Slavery and Trafficking Asia Pacific (IAST-APAC)) and Nicole Martens (Head of Stewardship, Old Mutual Investment Group) to share insights into actions that have been taken by exchanges in providing focused guidance, explore the enabling role of broader ESG guidance, and discuss the impacts and potential benefits of more focused guidance on modern slavery.

The session closely follows on the SSE’s Q3 2022 Quarterly Webinar held on 6 September 2022 featuring a discussion about forced labour, human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery. It also dovetailed well with the SSE’s Policy Brief Stock exchange guidance on human rights disclosure published in 2021, which contained an analysis of human rights references in stock exchange ESG disclosure guidance. The analysis found that while stock exchange guidance to issuers on human rights disclosure is becoming a market practice, some areas of disclosure, particularly regarding more specific issues, can still improve.

Panellists at the FAST conference noted that as a core human rights issue, modern slavery is interconnected with a number of ESG topics such as supply chain management and protection of  fundamental labour rights. A lack of freedom of association and collective bargaining can increase the risk of forced labour, child labour and discrimination. On the inverse, more independent unions and collective bargaining agreements can decrease the risk of modern slavery. A report entitled Earth Shattering, published by FAST earlier this month, found that value chains further intersect with environmental issues, pandemic policy responses, and climate change in ways that collectively exacerbate modern slavery vulnerabilities within affected local communities. FAST is a project of the United Nations University's Centre for Policy Research

Against the backdrop of concerns about issuers and investors expressing limitations in understanding of and access to information about the risks and challenges of modern slavery, panellists addressed the role of exchanges enabling heightened awareness and better data availability through supporting businesses in the detection, addressing, and reporting of modern slavery risks throughout their value chain. Engagement by investors and other stakeholders with exchanges may encourage collective action that can bring the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 to eradicate modern slavery closer within reach.