Kiwi households are unwittingly contributing to modern slavery through what they buy, a humanitarian organisation says.
New research commissioned by World Vision suggests New Zealand consumers spend on average $34 per week on "risky goods" linked to child and forced labour.
At least 40 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery — more than during the height of the transatlantic slave trade.
The new study found about $3 billion worth of imports into the country every year could be linked to modern slavery.
"Risky goods" include clothes, electronics, footwear, toys, furniture, bananas and coffee.
New Zealanders spent the most money on risky goods from China — $2 billion, according to the study.
World Vision New Zealand director Grant Bayldon told Breakfast today that companies don’t have to declare where their goods are coming from, or ensure their products haven’t been made by people who are enslaved.
"This 'don’t ask, don’t tell' approach means that it’s currently almost impossible for Kiwis to be confident that what we buy and use is slavery-free," he said.
"For companies already doing the right thing, there is no level playing field that requires their competitors to do the same."
He told Breakfast the Government urgently needs to introduce a modern slavery act.
"Just because it's difficult, doesn't mean we shouldn't take some steps."
A modern slavery act would require companies to find out and disclose whether their products are supporting modern slavery and to take appropriate action to address it.
Bayldon pointed out Australia, the UK and Canada as countries already introducing legislation on modern slavery.
He said in March, Kiwi companies had signed an open letter requesting the Government start an inquiry into a modern slavery act.
Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood had said he would "consider it", according to Bayldon.
"The time for consideration is coming to an end. It is time to act and commit. We can work out the details later," Bayldon said.