Leadership | Modern Slavery

Walk Free appoint NZ champion to lead the charge against modern slavery

OCS Team

OCS Team

22 Feb, 2024

Walk Free appoint NZ champion to lead the charge against modern slavery

International human rights group, Walk Free, has recently appointed Gareth Marriott, Managing Director at OCS Australia & New Zealand, 1M, and Midcity to champion the fight against modern slavery in Aotearoa as the NZ Business Leader for the Bali Process Government and Business Forum.

Modern slavery has ballooned since the pandemic, with an estimated 50 million people globally impacted on any given day, up from an estimated 40 million in 2016. Tragically, one in four are children.

Every 27 seconds a person is trafficked into slavery somewhere around the world – and although we don’t want to believe it, the impacts of modern slavery are taking effect right here in Aotearoa New Zealand too.

Walk Free’s Global Slavery Index estimates that around 8,000 people were working in conditions of modern slavery in New Zealand in 2022. In their 2023 Risky Goods report, World Vision estimated that every household in New Zealand spends on average $77 a week on goods associated with either forced labour or child labour.

It’s statistics like these that highlight the importance of groups, like Walk Free, which focus on the eradication of modern slavery, in all its forms, in our lifetime.

Battling a global issue unrestricted by borders, Walk Free needs champions to help agitate for change and pioneer research that reinforces the need for change in the world. That includes using their networks to highlight the importance of legislation and to influence businesses to address the issues at hand.

Grace Forrest, Founding Director of Walk Free and Commissioner of the Global Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, believes there needs to be laws in place for any real change to take effect.

“New Zealand needs laws that require businesses to look for modern slavery in their supply chains and to address risks when they find them. As these laws spread across Australia, the UK and Europe, we need countries like New Zealand to align with international standards and level the playing field for business.

“Walk Free has been working with New Zealand businesses and the government for years to get this passed and the time has come. We welcome the appointment of Gareth Marriott as a business delegate of the Bali Process Government and Business Forum to work with business and government leaders across the region on these issues,” says Forrest.

Marriott has been driving for change in this field for a number of years, including his involvement in the original working group in 2021 which made recommendations to the New Zealand government on the proposed legislation.

As Managing Director of one of the world’s largest facilities management companies, he feels a moral and commercial obligation to ensure that our supply chains are free from modern slavery.

“Globally, our industry is no stranger to unscrupulous operators, and even in Aotearoa, we know people are working in terrible conditions. We need legislation to change that. We’ve all been waiting for the new government to come together, and now that it has, we need to act,” says Marriott.

“I’m urging all business leaders to keep the pressure on the government and demand some real action in the legislation – such as mandatory due diligence and penalties for non-compliance. They could even go one step further and place a ban on imported goods produced by those in modern slavery.

“If there was any time to instigate change, now has to be it. This is bigger than business or government – we’re talking about paving the way towards a world that is fair and equitable, and one that supports both our planet and our people to thrive in harmony.”

For more information about Walk Free and to find out how you can make a positive impact on the world visit: Walkfree.org

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