By Kiri Hannifin, General Manager, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability, Countdown

"With the passing of the Modern Slavery Act in Australia late last year, Kiwi businesses are starting to turn their minds to the impacts that this new legislation will have here in New Zealand.

The issue of modern slavery isn’t a new one, but it has largely remained out of the public spotlight. With that lack of attention has come the belief that it’s not an issue in New Zealand, leaving many businesses unprepared for the new reporting requirements they need to undertake. But that perception is starting to change.

Modern slavery affects around 40.3 million people worldwide, according to the Global Slavery Index, and includes an estimated 3,000 people in New Zealand. A number of high-profile cases in New Zealand in the last two years have seen a growing number of consumers demanding to know where the products they are buying are coming from and how the people creating those products are being treated.

For retailers like us, who sell thousands of products to almost three million Kiwi customers each week, we want to be able to give them the assurance that anything they buy from us is produced by people who are getting paid and treated fairly.

Our team and our suppliers are well prepared to meet the reporting requirements of Australia’s new Act. We’ve had a focus on ethical sourcing for a number of years now, and this has been further galvanised by the introduction of our Responsible Sourcing Policy and Standards in July last year.

The Policy outlines our commitment to upholding the human rights of our team and the workers in our upstream supply chain. The Standards are the tools we are using to embed it.

Since their introduction, we’ve been working with our suppliers throughout the country to help them understand the Policy and Standards. We’re also starting to carry out baseline auditing. Some suppliers may be concerned about what happens if these audits uncover issues, but this process isn’t about taking a punitive approach.

That won’t make things better. It will only end up affecting the same people we want to protect. This process is about finding out where there may be problems and working together to address them.

We know that Kiwis are big believers in treating and paying people fairly for their work. Meeting the commitments, we’ve laid out in our policy are the best ways we can make sure that’s happening.

All businesses, including ours, have a shared responsibility to assure Kiwi consumers that we’re all doing the right thing when it comes to the worker in our supply chain. We’re proud to be working with our suppliers to achieve that."