Tackling modern slavery & accessing growth – the benefits of transparency to small business

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Modern slavery is a global issue on a huge scale. The Global Slavery Index’s latest estimate puts the number of modern day slaves at 45.8 million people around the world – almost the population of Spain.

With complex global problems like these it’s tempting to look towards big business as the culprit – those multinationals with complex supply chains and operations trailing around the world, and with little transparency over these operations. This is where the Modern Slavery Act has focused attention, requiring annual reporting by businesses with a turnover greater than £36 million per year.

However, the issue of modern slavery and the challenge of transparency aren’t limited to corporations, with 71% of businesses of all sizes believing there is a likelihood of modern slavery occurring at some stage within their supply chain in research by the Ashridge Centre for Business and Sustainability and the Ethical Trading Initiative.

In fact, there is both responsibility and clear opportunity for smaller businesses to engage with modern slavery and to improve their business’ transparency and sustainability:


Appealing to Customers

Sustainability and transparency are of increasing importance to today’s consumer, with 91% of global consumers expecting companies to do more than make a profit, but to also operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues.

Consumers are also increasingly willing to vote with their wallet, with 55% of online consumers polled across 60 countries prepared to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.

So smaller businesses are well advised to use their agility to impact positively on social and environmental issues, and to use this as a competitive advantage to reach a premium market.


Accessing Talent

A business can only be as good as its staff, and millennials – the workforce on the rise – are unwilling to work for an organisation that doesn’t share their values.

Deloitte’s Millennial Survey 2016 reveals that 56 percent of Millennials have “ruled out ever working for a particular organization because of its values or standard of conduct.”

In addition Millennials see ethics, trust, integrity and honesty as the second most important values a business should follow if it is to have long-term success, only one percentage point behind employee satisfaction, loyalty and fair treatment.

With ethics and fair treatment of one’s employees the values the Millennial generation cares most about, creating a transparent workplace becomes key to attracting the best people enable business growth.


It’s the Best Route to Growth

Finally, Unilever is famous for being clearly focused on environmental and social transparency and sustainability, but it isn’t only engaging with these issues as a form of CSR – it’s integral to their growth. As Keith Weed, the chief marketing and communications officer of Unilever wrote in the Guardian earlier this year,

“our sustainable living brands – such as Lifebuoy, Ben & Jerry’s and Dove – are growing at twice the rate of the rest of our portfolio and delivering more than half our growth. This is an economic decision and it is driving our business.”

Transparency and sustainability are a route to growth, and it’s economically, as well as ethically paramount to consider the social and environmental impacts of your organisation. Your work to address these impacts, and to communicate them, is key to the resilience of your business and an enormous opportunity for growth.


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