The £3.2M public awareness campaign includes television, online and poster advertising warning that ‘modern slavery is closer than you think’.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said increased public awareness would be a key driver in the eradication of slavery.
“For many years responsible retailers have been working hard, both individually and through partnerships like Stronger Together, to drive forced labour, exploitation and modern slavery out of their supply chains,” a BRC spokeswoman said.
‘Persistent and pernicious’
“However modern slavery is persistent and pernicious and it will take government, industry and the public all working together to bring an end to these evil practices.”
The BRC is set to publish its anti-slavery guidelines for its members at the end of the year.
The document would signpost key initiatives, highlight good practice and positive examples from the retail industry and identify where more work from government was needed to support industry’s efforts, the BRC claimed.
David Camp, director of the Association of Labour Providers and programme coordinator for Stronger Together – a food industry initiative set up to reduce slavery in agriculture and food supply chains – said the campaign was needed.
“Incidences of modern slavery in the UK are being uncovered all the time,” he added.
“Last week it was reported that police officers in Hampshire executed a warrant and rescued eight men of Romanian, Latvian and Polish nationalities, believed to have been held as slaves.”
In the public awareness advert (see bottom of article) a group of men are woken up and forced from inside a storage container onto the back of a lorry and into a field.
The government hoped it would encourage people to identify signs of slavery and report them to its modern slavery national helpline.
In food and agriculture, labour exploitation should be reported to the Gangmasters Licensing Authority on 0800 432 0804.
The Human Trafficking Foundation estimates that 20,000 people are working in slavery in the UK.
In 2012, 29% of cases of trafficking for forced labour reported to the UK Human Trafficking Centre occurred within the food processing and agricultural sectors.
The Stronger Together initiative aims to equip employers with the knowledge and resources to tackle hidden worker exploitation.
It was developed by the Association of Labour Providers, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and Migrant Help, with sponsorship by UK retailers and support from bodies including the British Growers Association, BRC and the Food and Drink Federation.