By Peter Andrews, Head of Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium

It is no doubt a shock if you discover a possible case of modern slavery in your operations or supply chain. You want to do the right thing, protect that victim and ensure the perpetrators face justice. But no doubt questions will be raised in your company about how your key stakeholders, such as your customers, may react to this association with such a heinous crime.

Retailers recognise it’s not always easy for supplier businesses to announce they’ve discovered a possible case of modern slavery, and so to support suppliers they have developed a new Retailer Protocol to give confidence that if a suspicion of modern slavery is discovered and alerted to the authorities, retailer customers will seek to support that supplier along the way, as long as they are not culpable to the crime.

The purpose of this Protocol is to drive consistent application of good practice in the processes that retailers apply in handling reported cases of forced labour, human trafficking, debt bondage and other forms of modern slavery in their UK supply chain.

There is no immediate action for suppliers to take, but they are encouraged to familiarise themselves with it.

Retailers want to avoid situations where suppliers who come forward are negatively impacted. We recognise that through better, consistent engagement, we can encourage and support more suppliers to raise these issues.

The retail industry is committed to playing our part in tackling what the Prime Minister calls “the great human rights issue of our time”. However, we can only be successful if we work together, with our supply chain partners.

This Protocol has been developed in partnership between retailers, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the Government’s Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), and Stronger Together, as well as through consultation with supply chain partners.

We welcome your feedback. Do get in touch if you have any questions.

View the protocol here. 

Learn more

As part of Better Retail Better World, retailers aim to embed a policy that no worker should have to pay for a job. This policy across their whole supply chain as a safeguard against modern slavery. This tackles situations where low-wage workers borrow large sums of money to cover recruitment fees, putting them at risk of exploitation, including debt bondage. Click here to find out more. 


Peter Andrews, Head of Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium / / 020 7854 8956 / / 01276 919090