Construction Coalition Charter launched to tackle modern slavery in global supply chain

  • 23 Mar 2017

A coalition of leading construction sector institutions and associations has been formed to raise awareness and eradicate modern slavery in construction supply chains. 

The Construction Coalition Charter was announced by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), the British Standards Institution (BSI) Supply Chain Services and Solutions and Sustain Worldwide, and has garnered wide support from across the industry.

The charter supports the principle that slavery 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. The charter asks signatories 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.

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.”

Tackling modern slavery

Established in 2015, the Modern Slavery Act has highlighted the risks that the issue poses to businesses and points out examples of it in global supply chains. 

A 2016 report, titled Hidden in Plain Site – Modern Slavery in the Construction Industry, found that throughout the global construction industry and its material supply chains, modern slavery is common, concealed and subject to inadequate prevention, policing and prosecution.

The International Labour Organisation has estimated that there are 21 million people in forced labour around the world, generating profits in the private economy of $150 billion. It is thought that 13,000 of modern slaves are currently employed in the UK.

Several standards and initiatives have been set up to support the Modern Slavery Act, including the Ethical Labour Standard (ELS), established by BRE to support business to meet its human rights challenges. The ELS provides a framework for verifying ethical labour sourcing, and provides a route to verification of products and services. 

The BSI supports tackling modern slavery through its Supply Chain Risk Exposure Evaluation Network (SCREEN) solution, Supplier Compliance Manager (SCM) solution and the Trafficking & Supply Chain Slavery Patterns Index

The Index is a new tool used to assess and avoid the risks posed by slavery and trafficking, by look at the intersection and relationship between source countries of displaced people and the likelihood of being exploited through human rights abuses, security threats and business continuity risks upon arrival in destination countries.

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.”

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