Modern Slavery Bill: transforming construction CSR and supply chain management.

No responsible organisation in construction would want any association with modern day construction slavery, forced employment, child or migrant exploitation as we read increasingly often in the mainstream news, for example Qatar construction or closer to home with construction gangmaster organisations. Hence the Modern Slavery Bill should be welcomed by the built environment sector.

Included within the Modern Slavery Bill introduced on 31 August 2015 (coming into affect on 31 October 2015) is a clause that has significance for most construction organisations – the Transparency in Supply Chains (TISC) clause.

We have introduced a transparency in supply chains clause to the Modern Slavery Bill. This will require businesses above a certain size threshold to disclose each year what they have done to ensure that there is no modern slavery in their supply chains and own business. This will be a truly world-leading measure. There are similar transparency requirements in California, but they only apply to businesses producing goods for sale, whereas this disclosure will apply regardless of what it supplies, whether goods or services.
Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime, Karen Bradley

What does the Bill and Transparency Clause mean for construction:

Chris Blythe, CE CIOB in Foreword to the CIOB Dark Side of Construction publication: The dark side – the systematic exploitation of millions of vulnerable migrants – is rarely acknowledged, even by the clients and multinationals that commission and create our shiny new cities. Our sector is rife with human rights abuses. Bonded labour, delayed wages, abysmal working and living conditions, withholding of passports and limitations of movement are all forms of modern slavery.

The scope of the TISC clause will cover construction products companies importing goods or components to the UK, as well as contractors and consultancies operating in the home markets and/or overseas.

The Modern Slavery Bill (with its Transparency in Supply Chains clause) will transform and elevate construction CSR and Supply Chain Management as important legislative responsibility processes.

Organisations with a turnover of £36 million will have to:

  • publish a “slavery and human trafficking statement” setting out the steps it has taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in its supply chains and within its own business.
  • From October 2016, to publicly share their policies and strategies to tackle modern slavery in their supply chains.

Guidance on what might be included in such a statement:

  • Companies’ due diligence processes relating to slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains;
  • Reporting on the parts of companies’ supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and trafficking taking place, and how to assess and manage such a risk;
  • Reporting on staff training on slavery and human trafficking;
  • Reporting on companies’ effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and trafficking are not taking place in their businesses or supply chains.

“Implications of non-compliance with this reporting obligation in such a morally compelling context could leave a large dent in an otherwise sterling company reputation” Victoria Ball, projects & construction associate at law firm Trowers & Hamlins

“It will involve a deep dive into the supply chain to understand what’s really going on many tiers down – getting visibility of the many layers to truly see the conditions of workers at the bottom of the chain. The message to companies is clear – it is no longer an option to stay below the radar, refuse to take responsibility for problems in your supply chain and hope you won’t get exposed.”Cindy Berman, head of knowledge & learning ETI

What is not so clear is where the responsibility under the Bill rests for SME’s below the threshold that have organisations above the threshold within their supply chains. Most construction organisations procuring goods and services from large product distributors or manufacturers.

Actions construction and built environment organisations should take?

  • Embed Modern Slavery into CSR policies and statements, where, arguably there should be a statement anyway if base on a recognised CSR structures(eg ISO 26001, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), JUST, Global Compact or the Human Rights Charter)
  • Understand the concept of Transparency in Supply Chains (TISC)
  • Include questions statements in supplier procurement processes. (And probably best to do so for all suppliers who are close to or over the threshold)
  • Develop a PQQ and Project Bid standard text.
  • Understand what an annual“slavery and human trafficking statement” for your organisation could look like

And of course, these good practices should be adopted even if below the £36million turnover threshold as a matter of social responsible construction.

Sources:

Related iSite blogs:

JUST: a social justice label for construction …

Constructing CSR iTransparency 

Understanding CSR in Construction

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