How compliant are the government's top suppliers with the Modern Slavery Act?

For the second year in succession, Tussell has collaborated with international sustainability consultancy, Sancroft, to assess the compliance of the top 100 suppliers to Central Government in 2018 with the Modern Slavery Act.

The UK government has had as a stated priority the elimination of modern slavery around the globe. These efforts culminated in the creation of the Modern Slavery Act of 2015 - the first legislation of its kind in Europe, it aimed to combat the scourge of forced labour, human trafficking and debt bondage around the world.

Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act mandates that large companies must publish annual statements setting out the steps they take to prevent modern slavery in their business and their supply chains. Given that public procurement is the single largest component of UK public sector spending, the Government has an important role in ensuring that its procurement from private-sector suppliers is consistent with its stated aim of combatting slavery and exploitative labour practices. Central Government awarded contracts worth £9.3bn to its top 100 suppliers in 2018, and should ensure it uses this spending power to encourage compliance with its own regulations. 

Using its database of public sector contracts, Tussell provided a ranking of the top 100 suppliers to Central Government in 2018 by the total value of contracts with which they were awarded*. Sancroft subsequently evaluated how well these top suppliers complied with Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act, and provide constructive guidance as to how both suppliers and government can improve practice to advance the fight against modern slavery.

*This report looks only at contracts awarded and does not include framework contracts given that they are not in themselves guarantees of work.


  • Central Government awarded contracts with a total lifetime value of £9.3bn to its top 100 suppliers in 2018
  • 29 of the UK Government’s top 100 suppliers were not compliant with the Modern Slavery Act.
  • There was a 34% increase in compliance on 2017.
  • Four of the top 100 companies failed to publish Modern Slavery Act statements.
  • Top suppliers are in sectors with a high-risk of violations of the Act, like construction, utilities and IT.

Overall the report gives cause for optimism: compliance with Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act is up, as a greater percentage of the top 100 suppliers to government provided statements visible from the company's website on slavery and human trafficking. There is evidently more work to be done however, given that almost a third of the top 100 suppliers to Central Government were non-compliant with the Act.

Instances like these show the value of greater transparency. Increased visibility of procurement allows for greater scrutiny of the ethical dimensions involved. This in turn can provide the impetus to companies that want to protect their reputation to take proactive steps to improve business practice.

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