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More than 45 million people are working as slaves around the world – including at least 4,300 in Australia – in operations generating billions in profit. The United Kingdom is using legislation to try to tackle the problem.

Slavery is a hugely profitable criminal activity, each year generating US$150 billion around the globe, according to a 2014 International Labour Organization report. Governments around the world have begun to recognise that the power to fight it lies in the board room.

The UK has introduced the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which has global reach through supply chains that span the world. Under section 54 of the Act, directors of qualifying foreign and British companies that do business in the UK must make slavery a compulsory item on the board agenda. Section 54 is part of a growing global trend towards increased corporate transparency, and similar laws are expected both internationally and in Australia.

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