Modern Slavery Register – What Is It, And What Does It Mean For Businesses?

The number of people suffering from modern slavery is growing. Modern slavery is a growing global problem, and it has been estimated that as many as 35 million people are trapped in its clutches.

This is a world away from the dusty, yet still-powerful images of slavery of old. Today’s slavery is far more insidious, modern, and complex. It may be hidden in plain sight – something that can be difficult to detect and prove.

And it is, unfortunately, something that all businesses must be aware of.

This article explains what modern slavery is, how it can affect businesses and how businesses can do their part to tackle it.

What Is The Modern Slavery Register?

The Australian modern slavery register is a public register of organizations that are accredited for sustainable cotton and non-slavery products. It is the first of its kind in the world and has set a benchmark for other countries to follow.

The register was established by the Australian government and assures consumers that their products are not contributing to slavery, or are sourced from slave labor.

Every business that wants to be accredited must undergo a certification process and will be scrutinized on how they operate compared with international best practices.

The new rules state that if your company knowingly purchases goods or uses services from an unaccredited supplier, you will have to sign a formal declaration confirming this.

This means that if you purchase services or goods from an unaccredited provider, you will be liable for prosecution.

How Does Modern Slavery Affect Businesses?

Slavery, as we traditionally think of it, is a thing of the past. But modern slavery exists in many different forms. It can be found in the fishing industry and the garment industry – amongst other places. It often goes unrecognized in the workplace, too.

For businesses, this can mean that:

  • Employees are being taken advantage of at work – leading to low wages and poor conditions
  • Company profits are higher because of slave labor
  • Businesses don’t have access to skilled labor
  • Lack of transparency due to lack of free or fair labor practices

What Are The Signs Of Modern Slavery?

Modern slavery can be difficult to detect, as it can manifest in many forms.

These include:

  • Forced labor, where people are coerced or deceived into employment and then exploited.
  • The exploitation of children in commercial sexual exploitation, which includes pornography.
  • Forced marriage, is where a young woman is forced to marry an older man who may already have a wife and children, to be sexually exploited by him or his family members.
  • Debt bondage, involves people being tricked into believing they must repay a loan but never being able to do so. They end up working off their debt instead.
  • Domestic servitude is when people are forced to work in private homes around the world – often as maids or carers for the elderly or infirm – and are not given contracts that set out wages and conditions.


Modern slavery is a serious and complex issue that affects businesses around the world. But with the right knowledge and awareness, you can make a positive impact on your business and the wider world. With the Modern Slavery Act now in place, we’re closer than ever to ending modern slavery globally.


Ivy Skye Marshall: Ivy, a social justice reporter, covers human rights issues, social movements, and stories of community resilience.