An Interview on Modern Slavery with Andrew Pearce

What is Modern Slavery and why is it important to Verdia?

Modern slavery describes situations where offenders use coercion, threats or deception to exploit workers and undermine their freedom. The reason why it’s important to Verdia is because Modern Slavery can occur in every industry, especially within large operations, and has severe consequences for victims. Verdia works with one of the most expansive contractor and supplier platforms across Australia, including a vast network of equipment suppliers and installers. With a supply chain like ours, it’s important to stay on top of our effort to prevent Modern Slavery within our large workforce.

How prevalent is Modern Slavery within Australia?

The Global Slavery Index 2018 estimated that on any given day in 2016, there were 15,000 people living in conditions of Modern Slavery in Australia. Even though Modern Slavery is illegal in Australia, there are still victims experiencing Modern Slavery across Australia for several reasons. The majority of victims are individuals on VISAs who have been tricked, coerced or threatened to stay in their situation. They are often unaware of Australian laws and fearful, believing what they are told by their employers. This may come as a shock to many Australians but the facts are there, and Verdia is proud to be contributing to a process which is trying to prevent Modern Slavery.

What is Verdia doing to prevent Modern Slavery from occurring within its own practices?

Verdia is firmly opposed to Modern Slavery, and the use of forced labour within our supply chain. We are committed to helping to ensure that our supply chain is free of forced labour, and we are in support of raising awareness within the industry on this important issue. We only work with suppliers who agree not to participate in Modern Slavery practices and are committed to safeguarding the human rights of its employees.

Our staff are kept informed about Modern Slavery. For anyone looking to learn more about it, I highly recommend having a look through Anti-Slavery Australia’s website and partaking in some of the free e-learning courses linked there. It’s an excellent resource for people of all ages and no matter what your role within society you will find it easy to understand and educational.

How do you think the Modern Slavery Act 2018 has helped prevent Modern Slavery?

The Modern Slavery Act 2018 set about new rules for large Australian businesses to follow to prevent Modern Slavery. One of its aims was for large Australian businesses to look deeply into their supply chains and find out if Modern Slavery was happening. Some large organisations are required to report on their findings every year, assessing the risks of Modern Slavery in their workforce. The Act asks us to look and be more aware, and do our due diligence to address any Modern Slavery. I think it has been invaluable for raising awareness and helping large organisations, where victims may slip through the cracks, to prevent Modern Slavery in their operations.

What compelled Verdia to get involved and start taking notice of the risks of Modern Slavery?

Verdia was founded on high levels of moral and ethical principles. We have always sought to ensure that Verdia, and its vendors and suppliers, are doing as much as we can in relation to our corporate and social responsibility. We are one of the very few, if not the only, company of our type which goes to great lengths to ensure our suppliers not only upheld to the highest level of quality, but also compliant with our environmental and corporate social responsibility requirements. Whilst also abiding by COVID regulations, we regularly undertake detailed factory visits of all of our accredited suppliers to ensure they are complying with their own and international standards.

In one circumstance, concerns were raised in relation to the polysilicon supply originating out of the Xinjiang region. Verdia immediately engaged with suppliers to ensure that all measures were in place to eliminate all association with this high-risk region.

How often does Verdia speak to their suppliers about Modern Slavery?

Verdia speaks with its suppliers on a regular basis including where possible, yearly factory visits. During factory visits we meet with employee representatives and carefully review the quality management manual to ensure compliance with best practice.

To learn more about Modern Slavery in Australia, and Verdia’s commitment to the prevention of Modern Slavery in its practices, please read our Modern Slavery Statement.

Andrew Pearce is our Executive General Manager of Operations. Andrew leads a team responsible for driving cost-effective, high-quality projects for our clients, with minimal disruption to business as usual. Andrew’s career spans almost 20 years in operations leadership roles for energy and telecommunications firms, including the design and delivery of the largest rooftop PV installation in Australia, for the University of Queensland. Andrew is passionate about the prevention of Modern Slavery, and raising awareness of its impact on both its victims and businesses.

Call us to find out more 1300 113 243