By Kieran Guilbert
LONDON, Jan 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Imagine buying charity merchandise to fund cancer research - only to find you had instead supported the global trade in human trafficking and bought an item made by modern-day slaves.
Seeking to prevent such a scenario, one of the world's largest cancer charities said on Thursday it was ramping up efforts to spot forced labour in its supply chain by joining a platform for sharing ethical sourcing data.
British charity Cancer Research UK said it had signed up to Sedex, an organisation working to improve supply chain transparency, to ensure the clothing and merchandise sold at its 600 shops in Britain were ethically sourced and slavery-free.
Forced labour often lurks in global supply chains as a product is manufactured, packaged and distributed in a complex process linking multiple suppliers across a host of countries.
An estimated 24.9 million people are trapped in forced labour globally, and nearly one in 10 children is a victim of child labour, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO) and rights group Walk Free Foundation.
"Clothing and merchandise is a small and secondary activity at Cancer Research UK, but we believe joining Sedex demonstrates that we take modern slavery issues very seriously," Lynn Muller, head of product operations, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Sedex counts retailer Marks & Spencer, Barclays bank and pay-TV company Sky among its members, as well as big British charities such as Oxfam, Red Cross and Save the Children.
"Our diverse member base, from the smallest farmers to the largest multinational corporations, demonstrates that improving the ethical performance within supply chains is not specific to one sector," said Sedex chief executive Jonathan Ivelaw-Chapman.
Cancer Research UK's decision to join Sedex was hailed by charity bodies as a boost for transparency.
"Large charities in particular are increasingly scrutinised on issues such as their impact on the environment," said Karl Wilding, director of public policy and volunteering at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.
Under Britain's landmark Modern Slavery Act, passed in 2015, organisations, including charities, with a turnover of more than 36 million pounds must produce an annual statement showing what they have done to ensure their supply chains are slavery-free.
(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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