News & blog British Science Festival: Modern slavery in the UK By Grace Marner, British Science Festival Modern slavery is the second most profitable criminal industry after drugs. It’s estimated that there are 13,000 people in modern slavery conditions in the UK, but this is thought to be just the tip of the iceberg. Cristina Talens works with businesses to spot modern slavery in their supply chains in the UK and overseas. She gave an enlightening talk at the British Science Festival about what modern slavery is, and what is happening to try and reduce it. Those that are most at risk are migrant workers, UK nationals with learning difficulties and youngsters for sexual exploitation and the most common way to continue to exploit them is to loan them money which can never be repaid. The Modern Slavery Act was introduced to British legislation in 2015. It means that any company that has a turnover larger than £36 million has to make a public statement to address what they’re doing to combat modern slavery in their company. It’s very difficult to spot modern slavery. It also becomes more complicated as big companies have a network of supply chains that are difficult to constantly assess. Modern slavery could be right under our noses in places like nail bars, car washes and factories. But how can you spot it? Look out for workers who look less well kept than others, are reluctant to make eye contact or speak, or are treated with less respect than other staff. If you spot anything suspicious you can call the police or the modern slavery hotline. Many of us are becoming increasingly aware of where our goods have come from, so I asked Cristina what we can do as everyday consumers to tackle the problem. She said: “It’s just really not easy to identify. “The first thing I would say is if you are dependent on services or goods from a company, find out if they’ve got a modern slavery statement. That is a piece of legislation that has to be enacted. “Ask them about what they’re doing on modern slavery. That would be a great start if consumers acted like that.” Does buying fair trade help? “It’s not a panaceum for dealing with modern slavery I’m afraid. I wish it was, that would great if you could have a little sign saying 'slavery free', but I just don’t believe that would work. I don’t think it’s real." If each of us keeps an eye out for anything that doesn’t quite feel right or feels too good to be true and reports it, it could go a long way to reducing the amount of people being exploited for labour across the world and closer to home. Find out more on how to report modern slavery on the government's website here.