Philanthropist ‘Twiggy' Forrest Pushes Anti-Slavery Campaign
Posted: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 - 10:59
Author: Leslie Falkiner-Rose
Controversial philanthropist and businessman Andrew (Twiggy) Forrest has accused one of the world’s biggest fashion retailers Zara of refusing to join the boycott of Uzbekistan cotton, which is produced using forced child labor, in a speech to a Sydney conference.
Speaking at the biennial Philanthropy Australia Conference, Forrest, the Chair of Fortescue Metals Group and Co Founder of the Australian Children’s Trust, said that as part of a new global campaign against slavery, his company had forced its suppliers to audit their global supply chains to ensure no goods are produced using slave labour.
“The Fortescue suppliers have had to change practices, where necessary, and sign affidavits if they wish to continue to do business with the company,” he said.
Forrest urged “business to go against business”.
“If you know anyone using Zara then feel uncomfortable...if a Government goes up against Zara they‘ll be stonewalled, they’ll be delayed.”
However, Forrest said he had seen the Senior Executive of a supplier that used slave labour change his mind in 32 minutes, with written confirmation in an hour.
More than 300 philanthropists and Not for Profit leaders attended the Philanthropy Australia conference with the theme of Making Philanthropy Our Business.
Andrew Forrest is behind a new philanthropic charity, Walk Free which he says plans to “leave slavery mortally wounded within a decade”.
He said a global fund, that could reach out across governments was required to fight slavery and that it needed to be made illegal everywhere.
“Modern slavery - treating another person as though they are property - happens all the time.
“It certainly happens here in Australia.”
Forrest said Walk Free had raised a quarter of a billion dollars worldwide in a matter of weeks and is developing a global index of slavery in a bid to get measurements into an illegal industry.
In the first week of October, 30 world experts would meet in Dubai to rank countries against serious measurement.
In November, there would be a gathering of 70 organisations that fight slavery and then a campaign launch in December.
Already Forrest says Walk Free had galvanised 270,00 people around the world and seen the ratification of the International Labour Organisation convention 189 in the Philippines that will ensure decent conditions for 2.5 million Filipino workers.
Forrest and his family saw first hand the harvesting of children for the slave trade when his daughter Grace was working as a volunteer in Nepal.
“We are slavery-index measuring. We have the community of social media around the world saying ‘it’s got to stop’.”
Forrest told the audience he had not abandoned his ground-breaking work with indigenous Australians, saying it would now be driven by new CEO Warren Mundine.
“Once a person can pay their own way, their whole self perception changes...no amount of welfare will achieve that in their heart and soul.”
Forest is also the founder of of the Australian Employment Covernant.
“There was no point is accumulating capital on capital,” he said.
“Every hour we can spend on philanthropy and helping others is changing lives in ways more responsibly than I believe can be done in business.”
The Chair of Philanthropy Australia Bruce Bonyhady announced that PA’s incoming Chief Executive, Louise Walsh would review the organisation’s operations when she starts in October and would oversee Philanthropy Australia opening two new offices in Brisbane and Adelaide.
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