Construction coalition to raise awareness of modern slavery

By Catherine Sturman
Building Research Establishment (BRE), the British Standards Institution (BSI) Supply Chain Services and Solutions, and strategic communications partner...

Building Research Establishment (BRE), the British Standards Institution (BSI) Supply Chain Services and Solutions, and strategic communications partner Sustain Worldwide have announced the formation of a coalition of leading construction sector institutions and associations with the shared 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.

Dr Shamir Ghumra, Director, Centre for Sustainable Products, BRE, said: “The construction sector’s institutions’ and associations’ support for the Charter demonstrates their intent to raise awareness among their members of the heinous practice of modern slavery. 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.”

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 United Kingdom’s Construction Industry. Specifically, they commit to: 

1. Act in accordance with the laws and regulations to which they are subject

2. Develop tools, materials and training that support the development of best practice approaches to the issue of business and human rights

3. Support best practice through partnerships and research

4. Use their influence, and working with relevant authorities, to support the abolition of

illegal and unethical practices whenever they are found

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA) has brought the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking to the attention of British businesses and civil society. 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 case have highlighted the illegal practices taking place across Britain.

BRE has developed The Ethical Labour Standard (ELS) to support business to meet its human rights challenges, improve efficiencies and demonstrate continuous improvement. The standard provides 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.

BSI’s business intelligence tools and services include their Supply Chain Risk Exposure Evaluation Network (SCREEN) solution, Supplier Compliance Manager (SCM) solution, and its Advisory Services, specifically the Trafficking & Supply Chain Slavery Patterns Index. The Index is a new way to assess and avoid the risks posed by slavery and trafficking. It is unique in cross-referencing 191 source countries of displaced people, and their likelihood of being exploited in 193 destination countries. Each combination of countries has been ranked from low to severe based on the risk score.

Chris McCann, Principal Consultant, Supply Chain Services and Solutions at BSI, said: “The UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commission has identified construction as one of its four core focus sectors. 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.”

The CIOB has around 45,000 members, drawn from a broad cross section of built environment disciplines and representing many of construction’s leading clients and contractors. Its most recent antislavery initiatives include the publication of Building a fairer system: tackling modern slavery in construction supply chains in July 2016, and the launch of the Anti Slavery Toolkit, in collaboration with Stronger Together in February 2017. Its training arm, the CIOB Academy, is developing an ongoing programme of anti-slavery and ethics-based CPD training packages. 

CIOB Chief Executive Chris Blythe OBE said: “We are delighted to be part of this cross-industry collaboration. The Charter provides an unprecedented opportunity for industry and trade bodies to come together with a unified voice and message. 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.”

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