For years, Carolyn Kitto has trekked through the Himalayan foothills in northern India to assess the working conditions of pickers who gather tea leaves for global brands.
At times, that's meant wading knee-deep in raw sewage to talk to workers in their make-shift cabins looking for signs of modern slavery -- forced or child labor, indentured staff or illegal fees paid to recruiters.
"It's not if they've got slavery, it's when they find it," said Kitto, the Sydney-based director of Be Slavery Free, a non-profit organization. "It's that pervasive, almost every business has a risk of slavery in their supply chains."
A ground-breaking program launched in Australia is making it easier for activists like Kitto -- along with governments and investors -- to track the harsh, slave-like conditions that afflict some 40 million people around the world, the vast majority of them in Asia.
Under laws that came into force in 2019, companies and investors generating more than A$100 million ($71 million) in revenue must detail how they're managing the risk of slavery in their supply chains, and are required to upload their reports into a publicly accessible database. Firms must also outline the steps they've taken to fix any issues, a requirement that goes beyond laws in the U.K. or France, and is being studied by nations including the U.S. as a potential template for action.
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