Dame Sara Thornton, the recently appointed Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, has published her first Strategic Plan 2019-2021. The plan focuses on improving victim care and support, supporting law enforcement and prosecution, concentrating on prevention and getting value from research and innovation. Here are its main points with particular reference to car washing:
There are an estimated 136,000 victims of modern slavery and human trafficking in this country equivalent to the population of Ipswich. Traffickers regard human beings as a commodity to be traded and exploited, forcing children to work in hand car washes, supply drugs on county lines, young women into the sex trade and vulnerable people into working for no pay.
The Modern Slavery Act 2016 (the first such legislation in the world) requires eligible companies with turnover exceeding £36m to report how they are tackling modern slavery in their supply chains. Compliance remains weak; only 75% of eligible companies have published such a statement and only 4,000 out of 17,000 businesses have registered on the modern slavery contact database. The government is now consulting on the introduction of civil penalties for non-compliance recognising that a tougher approach is needed.
Significant public pressure about the environmental cost of businesses is changing the way they operate but the social cost of business is less well understood. Consumers believe that slavery "only happens in other countries" and that responsibility for fixing any problems rests with governments or business. Technology has the potential to empower consumers and the car wash sector has taken a lead here through The Clewer Initiative’s ’safecarwash’ app that enables the public to report concerns about exploitation in car washes where slavery is hidden in plain sight.
The Car Wash Association’s campaign, over a number of years, to change consumer habits by encouraging the public to put pressure on businesses to end labour exploitation has gained widespread government and media attention and is starting to yield encouraging results.