Why modern slavery is everyone's business


When Martin Wayman- ISS UK CR Manager, discovered that Modern Slavery is the world's fastest growing crime, he decided to find out how we can all play our part to tackle this heinous crime.


Forced labour around the world



People in slavery conditions globally



victims of modern slavery in the UK

Modern Slavery is the fastest growing crime in the world. That’s a surprising statement to open with isn’t it? You might have thought it was drug trafficking, violent crime or even cyber crime. But no, it’s actually Modern Slavery.

There are 45.6 million people in conditions of slavery in the world. No wonder slavery is on the agenda for the World’s leaders as they meet at the G7 Summit in Cornwall this week [1] with US President Joe Biden reportedly planning to challenge the use of forced labour in China [2]. The Modern Slavery Policy Unit [3] estimate there are at least 100,000 victims in the UK, with the actual number likely to be even greater.

So what is Modern Slavery?

Didn’t we abolish Slavery centuries ago?  I’ll admit that my understanding of the term was a little shaky when I first started tackling this topic for ISS UK and Ireland. Simply put, it is a broad term used to encompass the offences of slavery, servitude, and forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking.

While varied in nature, all involve one person depriving another person of their liberty, to exploit them for personal or commercial gain. When you really start to understand what Modern Slavery is, and how it could even be happening in a high street near you, you can’t help but be horrified by it. And yes, it still happens. In its modern form it is typically organised criminals rather than nation states that are the perpetrators.

The UK Modern Slavery Act

The good news is that the UK has some of the best legislation in the world to tackle this heinous crime. The UK Modern Slavery Act came into force in 2015 and gave the UK far-ranging powers to fight this crime and punish those responsible.

New requirements came in for businesses too. ISS UK launched its Anti-Slavery and Human Trafficking Policy in 2016 and have published annual Modern Slavery Statements for the past three years to explain what we’ve been doing to tackle the issue.

Under the UK Modern Slavery Act (2015):

a person commits an offence if — the person requires another person to perform forced or compulsory labour and the circumstances are such that the person knows or ought to know that the other person is being required to perform
forced or compulsory labour.

The legal obligation on everyone who works for ISS UK and Ireland is that they “ought to know”. We take this obligation extremely seriously. Vigilance is key. We have taken several steps to make our people more aware of Modern Slavery is, the warning signs to look out for and what to do if they see something suspicious.

Raising awareness amongst our workforce 

We started with a Modern Slavery session at a meeting of our Senior Leadership team, in which our CEO, Board and directors were briefed on the topic by representatives from the UK Government and Stronger Together – an NGO with expertise on Modern Slavery. This prompted an open and honest discussion about what we were doing well and where we could do more. There was a real desire among everyone present to raise that vigilance I mentioned previously.

So that’s exactly what we did. Not long after this leadership session, we launched our very first Modern Slavery training module for our workforce. Working with Stronger Together, we put a 30-minute course onto our internal E-Learning platform that was mandatory for our employees to complete. 

Training our people to look out for the signs...and to take action 

We wanted as many people as possible to be aware of the warning signs and know what to do if they ever suspected anything, however small. We launched the module in late April and we’ve trained over 3,300 employees to date.

To support the training we also created a Modern Slavery area on the home page of employee intranet so anyone can find guidance and advice whenever they need it. And we’re not stopping there. The next phase will be to work more closely with our suppliers on the topic of Modern Slavery, so that we can share good practice and learn from each other on how best to tackle this dreadful crime.

Vigilance is key.


  3. The Modern Slavery Policy Unit