Playing our part in eradicating modern slavery from the solar energy industry

Modern slavery is the exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain. Believe it or not, it is present in every country in the world. It takes many forms: human trafficking, forced and bonded labour and child slavery, to name a few. With the development of our new modern slavery statement earlier this year, Risen Australia’s legal team discusses the importance of a robust policy in today’s increasingly globalised business environment.

Why is modern slavery compliance so important for businesses today?

Given the nature of globalised supply chains, which include solar panels, no country is immune to corporate slavery. As responsible corporate citizens, we all have a moral and ethical obligation to play our part in eradicating modern slavery practices. Our business partners and customers across the solar power sector are also becoming more aware of and seeking more transparency on such issues. Conversely, the reputational damage which organisations face can be significant. Consumer confidence and market share can be lost if they are found to be sourcing from suppliers which use exploitative labour.

What does it demonstrate when a company actively fulfills this aspect of their CSR responsibilities?

Apart from meeting particular regulatory requirements (such as submission of a Modern Slavery Statement and associated reporting obligations), having a modern slavery policy and embedding an ethical approach in working with suppliers/subcontractors is much more meaningful than focusing solely on auditing and compliance.

In doing so, we hope to instil confidence in our customers and business partners that we are proactively working to identify and address forced labour issues in the solar panel supply chain, with a view to making global supply chains more responsible and transparent.

How else does legal support CSR practices for REA?

There has been much renewed interest in the ‘green’ energy sector in light of recent global events, which provides many exciting opportunities for Risen. The primary role of any legal function is to support the business to conduct its transactions in a balanced and compliant manner, both in terms of managing contractual/commercial risks and meeting statutory obligations. This is especially crucial for Risen, being in a highly regulated industry and involved in the development and operation of critical infrastructure assets.

Ensuring Risen is fully aligned with cybersecurity requirements under the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act is also an essential function. We seek to implement a more integrated approach and introduce streamlined processes to project negotiation and delivery across the organisation.

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