The report, Risky Goods New Zealand Imports, outlines which risky goods are coming into the country, where they are coming from and who is being exploited as well as providing recommendations on how to improve the situation.
According to World Vision national director Grant Bayldon, households spend $34 a week on “risky” items such as clothes, boots, toys, furniture, bananas, and coffee.
“At the moment the approach is ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, it’s almost impossible for Kiwis to know exactly what is going on. A Modern Slavery Act would require companies to check who is making their products, to disclose that and to do something about it when modern slavery is found.”
Australia, Britain and several European nations already had such legislation in place, while others – including Canada – were in the process of introducing anti-slavery laws.
Some were going even further and banning imports linked to modern slavery from entering their countries, Bayldon said.
The World Vision report is based on classifications by the United States Department of Labour identifying specific industries and countries linked to forced labour.
Bayldon said making supply chain audits a legal requirement would reduce the risk that legitimate businesses could be unfairly tarnished.
“None of us want to be an unwitting part of enslaving people,” Bayldon said.
“Yet 40 million children, women and men are estimated to be in modern slavery worldwide right now – more than at the height of the Transatlantic slave trade.
“They are making the products that are in our homes and workplaces. If demand for those products ends, so does modern slavery. We can all do something, right now, to help that happen.”
The report’s key findings include that New Zealanders imported $3.1bn of risky products from 44 countries in 2019.
They invested the most on risky Chinese goods, with garments being the most expensive risky nice, with two-thirds of them originating from China and having ties to slave labour.
According to the survey, $1.5 billion in imports were correlated with forced labour in 2019, $713 million with child labour, and $920 million with both forced labour and child labour.
The report made five suggestions, including that the New Zealand government introduce modern slavery legislation and that this legislation be designed in accordance with international best practises.
It also urged businesses to take steps to recognise modern slavery and human rights threats in their activities and supply chains, customers to make ethical purchasing choices, and more studies to be conducted on New Zealand’s largest imports linked to modern slavery.