19 January 2016, The Tablet

Vatican promises to make its supply chains slavery proof, Cardinal Pell announces

Directive on the back of supermarkets and major consumer goods companies promising to do the same

The Vatican will commit to ensuring its supply chains are "slavery-proof" following the announcement that the world’s biggest consumer goods firms and supermarket chains have decided to do the same to eliminate forced labour in their business partners.

Cardinal George Pell, the Prefect of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy, made the announcement at a Global Foundation roundtable on the global economy in Rome on 17 January. He said anti-slavery was an area in which Pope Francis and other religious leaders, notably the Archbishop of Canterbury, had cooperated closely to help eradicate the scourge of forced labour.

The Australian cardinal commended the Consumer Goods Forum's announcement that its 400 members had decided to slavery-proof their complete supply chains. They represented more than $US2.7 trillion in sales, employed 10 million people directly and had another 90 million jobs involved among their suppliers.

The news comes as the US Supreme Court refused to throw out a case against Nestle brought by victims of slave labour who claimed that the chocolate conglomerate's actions in Mali incentivised cocoa producers to use slave labour. 

And today Apple, Sony, Samsung and Microsoft were among a number of companies who failed to sufficient checks to ensure that child labour was not being used to mine cobalt for their phone, tablet and computer batteries, according to a report by Amnesty International.

The Global Foundation is an Australian-based organisation established to promote dialogue, mutual understanding and goodwill in the interests of long-term sustainable development and international engagement for Australia and the world.

"We are striving for good and better governance here in the Vatican," Cardinal Pell said. "It is of paramount importance to the credibility of the Holy See that we apply world’s best practice in the management of our own financial and economic affairs, with transparency, international cooperation and commitment to continuous improvement. With our Council for the Economy, we have come quite a long way in a short space of time, but we still have a way to go."

Cardinal Pell said the roundtable discussions on the topic of "Rejecting the 'globalisation of indifference'" adopted a term coined by Pope Francis early in his papacy to describe the lack of community response to the terrible loss of lives among the boat-people trying to cross the Mediterranean.

"It has become a continuing and general papal motif, serving as a constant wake-up call to all of us on the planet to move beyond our shallow self concerns."

The cardinal warned that many people had come to regard increasing prosperity as inevitable and necessary "and are unwilling to admit that communities might be living beyond their means and that the immense debts across the world have to be, at least, managed and contained".

"Some of us are too used to success and take it for granted.”

But Cardinal Pell said market economics had brought unprecedented prosperity and represented, despite many faults and deficiencies such as immense differences in incomes, "an extraordinary human achievement".

He praised Bank of England Governor Mark Carney’s leadership among the central banks of the G20 nations.

"He has demonstrated in his own jurisdiction that regulators will do their bit, but can only go so far; his argument, which I support, is that the better angels of the business world itself need to be clearer about what are otherwise implicit ethical underpinnings of the British economic and financial system and, in so doing, they should actively cut adrift the ‘free-riders’ who will not abide by these principles ... However ... if we are to truly mobilise the global economy, in a sustainable fashion, it will require business, not regulators, to take a leading role."



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