It may come as surprising news, but slavery still exists in 2017.
Forced labor, indentured servitude, and child exploitation are just some of the current manifestations of modern slavery.
But this week in Perth, Australia, leaders from some of the world’s biggest companies came together to acknowledge and discuss how they will try to rout out the persistent problem of slavery in their supply chains.
The heads of companies like Walmart, Japan’s Mitsui, and China’s JD.com this week pledged to bring about an end to forced labor and trafficking, according to Reuters. Adidas also attended the forum, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The event was the first-ever Bali Process Government and Business Forum, organized in part by an Australian mining magnate, Andrew Forrest, the chairman of Australia’s Fortescue Metals Group, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
There are some 45 million people worldwide who are involved in modern slavery, the majority of whom are located in the Indo-Pacific region, according to the Global Slavery Index. Many of them are wrapped up in supply chain work, according to Reuters.
Modern slavery is estimated to contribute to about $150 million in global profits each year, according to the Index. It helps produce everything from coffee and tea to cotton and garments.
Forrest said one of the goals of the forum is to encourage governments in the Indo-Pacific region to adopt a Modern Slavery Act, inspired by the British law of the same name that was passed in 2015 and strengthened penalties against traffickers.
Still, last month the head of London’s police service said that the city remained a hotspot of modern slavery, with workers in hotels, restaurants and on construction sites at particular risk of exploitation.
Last week Australia announced it would introduce legislation that require companies to thoroughly scrutinize their supply chains to combat trafficking and forced labor, according to the Herald.
"We are all going to have slavery in our supply chains no matter how good we think our corporate social responsibility is," Forrest said at the forum in Perth. "If we focus on it then we can identify it and root it out of your supply chains.
In all, business leaders and politicians from 48 countries attended the forum, which will be held again in Bali next year. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said he hopes that by next year the members will have developed “best practices” guidelines for other business and government leaders around the world.