New Charter aims to eradicate modern slavery
The Charter will commit a coalition of UK industry bodies to develop best practice, raise awareness and drive out illegal and unethical practices
Report from – Damien Carr
BRE and BSI Group’s Supply Chain Services and Solutions arm have formed a coalition of leading construction sector institutions and associations with the objective of raising awareness to eradicate modern slavery in construction supply chains.
The Coalition’s supporters include the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), Build UK, Constructing Excellence, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) and Supply Chain Sustainability School. Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), BHRRC, IHRB and Stronger Together are among the supporters from civil society, with Sustain Worldwide acting as the strategic communications partner.
Dr Shamir Ghumra, Director for the Centre for Sustainable Products at BRE, believes that the widespread support for the Charter demonstrates their intent to raise awareness among their members. “The Charter acts to coalesce the construction industry and provides a focal point for government and civil society to collaborate with the sector on business human rights issues,” he said.
A commitment to action
The Charter supports the principle that slavery, in all its forms, has no place in commerce of any type. Signatories commit to seek opportunities to uphold, preserve and promote the right of freedom in the UK’s Construction Industry.
Specifically, they commit to:
- developing tools, materials and training that support the development of best practice approaches to the issue of business and human rights
- supporting best practice through partnerships and research
- and using their influence, and working with relevant authorities, to support the abolition of illegal and unethical practices whenever they are found
CIOB Chief Executive Chris Blythe OBE said the Charter would give industry an “unprecedented opportunity” to unite against modern slavery. “Worker exploitation is a global problem intertwined with most international supply chains. It will take vigilance, top level leadership and a consistent approach to bring meaningful change,” he said. In February this year, the CIOB launched its Anti-Slavery Toolkit, available to its 45,000 members.
An issue that is coming out of the shadows
Since coming into force, the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA) has brought the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking to the attention of British businesses and the general public. Its Section 54 clause, Transparency in Supply Chains (TISC), highlights the risk to business of finding examples of it in global supply chains. Several high-profile court caseshave highlighted the illegal practices taking place across Britain.
Industry has also begun to actively combat the problem. BRE, for example, has developed the Ethical Labour Standard (ELS) to provide a framework for the verification of ethical labour sourcing, and to give a route to verification of products and services. The standard can be used as a business improvement tool without a business seeking verification.
Meanwhile, BSI has developed a number of business intelligence tools and services including the Trafficking & Supply Chain Slavery Patterns Index. The Index has been developed for companies to assess and avoid the risks posed by slavery and trafficking. It does this by cross-referencing 191 source countries of displaced people, and their likelihood of being exploited in 193 destination countries.
“The UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commission has identified construction as one of its four core focus sectors,” said Chris McCann, Principal Consultant, Supply Chain Services and Solutions at BSI. “Through the Charter, the construction industry demonstrates to Government, civil society, and indeed all stakeholders, that leaders in the sector are committed to working together to ensure human rights are actively promoted in their direct operations and global supply chains.”