Modern Slavery: A Reality in the UK, Sussex, and Why Businesses Can’t Afford to Look the Other Way
Have you seen ‘Sound of Freedom‘ yet?
It’s easy to forget that modern slavery isn’t just a tragic screenplay; it’s a lived reality for over 136,000 people in the UK. The film has stirred conversations, but we’re interested in the growing realisation that businesses should be more than passive spectators.
The always possible team put their heads together a couple of years back with the University of Sussex to dive into this issue.
The hard truths
In Sussex alone, police investigated 808 referrals of potential victims last year, up from 629 the previous year. It’s not an isolated trend either; UK-wide figures point to more than 17,700 potential victims referred to the Home Office in 2022-23. This isn’t a problem in the shadows; it is drawing an increasingly bright and terrifying light.
The Sussex Pledge: 2020 Vision
October 2020 marked a key moment for Sussex as councils across the county signed the anti-slavery pledge. They committed to, among other things, training staff to recognise signs of slavery, sharing intelligence to tackle it, and supporting victims in their communities. The change mission is to make Sussex a slavery-free community by 2030, aligning with United Nations sustainable development goals.
From Silver Screens to Real-life Stories
The success of ‘Sound of Freedom’ has made it palpable that the public is becoming more aware of this issue. But there’s a disconnect between public emotion and business action. That gap needs to be filled. Businesses have an incredibly bigger role to play in a story that’s more real than most like to admit.
always possible & Uni of Sussex: Changing The Conversation
Two years ago, always possible and the University of Sussex started a collaborative project aimed at bringing this subject out of lofty research and hidden policing and into the hands of business and charity leaders. Because professional teams are often the missing link in anti-slavery initiatives. Supply chains can hide forced labour; unaware employees can overlook key signs. In other words, businesses aren’t just bystanders; they’re potential first responders.
Working with Sussex Police and the Sussex Anti-Slavery Network, we produced podcasts, live Q&As, webinars and roundtable discussions – breakdown themes and key ideas.
The Business Imperative
The reality is, councils and local governments have their hands tied without the active participation of businesses. Modern slavery is a systemic issue that requires systemic solutions. It needs intelligence sharing, staff training, and a commitment to excise forced labour from every supply chain.
The Time is Now
We’re in a moment where modern slavery is starting to be understood a bit more. Corporates have to have a policy on it, but small businesses need to start accessing tools and opening up training opportunities with staff. What better time for businesses to turn that focus into something tangible?
It’s not just about social responsibility; it’s about understanding that businesses are a part of the social fabric that either perpetuates or alleviates human suffering. The businesses who ‘get it’ and lean in to it, demonstrate more to customers than a quick reference at the back of a website does.
More to explore
More to explore
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