Cobalt is used to stabilise batteries, making them safer, and is used in so many of our everyday items including our phones. Most cobalt comes from unregulated mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that are staffed partly by children, from 4 to 5 years old. In 2014 UNICEF estimated there were 40,000 children working in cobalt mines in the south of the DRC, and this has thought to have since increased as demand for cobalt has soared and also doubled in value in the last year alone. Everyone that is engaged in the mining of cobalt is exposed to serious health risks, from the people in the mines to the people above ground cleaning and sorting the cobalt. It’s toxicity causes respiratory problems and even fatal lung disease, and in the mines it has been reported that the loss of limbs is not uncommon as well as tunnels collapsing, trapping people who are left to die. A survivor on the episode said that when somebody gets injured nobody is allowed to help them. Staff are working from the early hours of the morning without any food or water.
It is suggested that we call the companies we buy our household items from and find out from where they source their Cobalt.
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Press release description:
Some items Senator Linda Reynolds, who welcomed the passage of the Modern Slavery Bill, noted in her media release:
– Australia will be the first nation to recognise orphanage trafficking as a form of modern slavery.
– More than half of the world’s victims are exploited in the Asia-Pacific region meaning that many of our products and services as Australians may have forced labour in their supply chains. The Bill will give Australians the opportunity to make more informed decisions about their purchases.
– The Bill will have international impact, improving workplace standards and practices.
Read the press release here
This article was published by Thomson Reuter’s Foundation, news and information company, who are part of a coalition to ‘boost the fight against financial crime and modern-day slavery’. Also, in the coalition is the World Economic Forum, Europol, a policing agency, and Rani’s Voice, an anti-trafficking enterprise.
Rani Hong, slavery survivor and founder of Rani’s Voice says that corporations, governments and charities must share data and work, particularly with regard to finances, to identify and stop human trafficking networks. The role of financial institutions, such as banks, is particularly critical in this space since traffickers rely on these institutions to move and launder money.
United States Banks Alliance, formed by Thomson Reuters Foundation, have launched a toolkit to help financial institutions uncover trafficking in their systems.
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As demonstrated by Darragh O’Keefe there is a lack of awareness of the existence of modern-slavery not just in the community but also by sourcing businesses and procurement professionals. Further, as important as increased awareness is increased preparedness to address the issue. The Commonwealth’s Modern Slavery Bill and the NSW Modern Slavery Act that was passed in June have both helped raise the issue’s profile, but in a survey conducted by Deloitte with sustainability managers, one third were unaware of the Modern Slavery Act and many thought there was only ‘a possibility’ of modern slavery in their supply chains. Further, a survey conducted in May by the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) showed ‘one in five [organisations] did not know who in their organisation was ultimately responsible’ for the issue of modern slavery in their supply chains.
This said, despite a lack of awareness and preparedness, informed organisations are ‘tending to embrace the legislation’, says Mark Lamb, general manager of CIPS Australasia. Dr Black from Deloitte states that one of the key challenges for organisations will be ‘getting visibility on supply chains’. The article goes on to discuss the importance of technology to address this issue as well as the predicted transformation of current procurement manager’s processes.
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In this article, Matthew Friedman discusses the increasing importance for businesses to address forced labour in their supply chains; besides being ‘plain wrong’ there is legislation being enacted around the issue, a growing number of concerned lawsuits, and media and consumer attention
The questions then becomes, how to address forced labour in businesses’ supply chains. Friedman presents a framework ‘for a coordinated and effective private-sector response to slavery’ that does not make businesses ‘choose between what is right, what is sustainable and what is profitable’. With a unified strategic plan Friedman says that slavery can be eliminated in private sector supply chains without a negative impact on profitability by 2028.
Throughout the article Friedman draws parallels between the mission to land man on the moon and the mission to eliminate supply chain slavery. He says, ‘like the man-on-the-moon goal, this is certainly ambitious, but it can be done.’
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