Demand and support for ethical and sustainable work practices is increasing at many levels. This includes consumers, procurers, investors, company directors, work brokers and recruiters, and importers, exporters, employees, and labour inspectors. It also involves mainstream and social media, and applies on a national, international and global scale.
More consumers are choosing which businesses to buy from based on how they treat their workers.
The 2019 Colmar Brunton Better Futures Report found that 90 per cent of Kiwis would stop buying a company’s products or using their services if they heard about them being irresponsible or unethical. In the same report 86 per cent agree “It is important for me to work for a company that is socially and environmentally responsible”.
Findings from the New Zealand Consumer Survey in 2018 showed that almost half of respondents will always, or most of the time, consider purchases based on their knowledge of how the business treats its workers. This was an increase to 48 per cent from 37 per cent 2 years earlier.
In 2011, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provided guidelines for 'States' (States refers to countries recognised by the United Nations, UN, including New Zealand) and companies to prevent, address, and remedy human rights abuses committed in business operations.
In 2015, the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and related Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by United Nations Member States. Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls for the promotion of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.
A number of UN States have laws to eliminate modern slavery from business and supply chains, including Australia, the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands. California also has similar laws.
One example is the Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018 (the Act) that looks to increase transparency, requiring some corporate and public sector organisations to report on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains and to take actions to address those risks. The Act impacts significantly on New Zealand, with EY (Ernst & Young, a multinational professional services firm) estimating in 2018, that 500 New Zealand businesses would be required to comply with the Act’s disclosure requirements.