Modern Slavery in Global Supply Chains

NGO speaker says better screening and evaluations among needed remedies

Erin Klett, senior director of research and policy at Verité, talks about slavery around the world.
Erin Klett, senior director of research and policy at Verité, talks about slavery around the world.

Some 40 million men, women and children are trapped in slavery, and more than half (25 million) work against their will while the rest live in forced marriages. 

That’s according to Erin Klett, senior director of research and policy at Verité, a global NGO with a mission to ensure decent, safe and fair working conditions for workers worldwide.

While modern day slavery is most prevalent in Africa and Asia, it affects all parts of the world, Klett said during a talk last week at Duke. One of the reasons for the perpetuation of slavery into modern times is that it is a very profitable business, estimated to generate as much as $150 billion a year, she said.

Klett elaborated on the design and implementation of research, tools, and programs Verité implements and how it aims to serve governments, companies, international organizations and civil society groups across a variety of sectors and regions.

Klett explained that forced labor, human trafficking and forced marriage all fall under the umbrella of modern slavery, which has several defining components: involuntariness, penalty, and deception.

She explained how the use of key frameworks and measured indicators of forced labor in her work at Verité allows them to analyze and identify how modern slavery looks in different cultural, geographical and social contexts.

After sharing findings from research and policy advocacy, Klett included examples of concrete steps taken by companies to remedy and prevent these forms of exploitation.

These include creating stronger policies, screening and evaluations, practicing proper compliance management and remedying violations.

Around 50 people attended Erin Klett’s talk, which was organized by the Duke University Center for International and Global Studies. Klett was invited to campus and introduced by Piotr Plewa, visiting research scholar at the center.