Modern Slavery and Ethical Sourcing

Ethical sourcing is a term that is becoming more and more prominent as governments and organisations strive to create a more global, equal and fair working environment.

The focus is to ensure products are being sourced from environments where workers are treated well, paid well and working in respectable conditions. In the construction industry, we must be aware of any hidden negligence within ethical sourcing involving both social and ethical issues with mistreated labourers.

An estimated 35.8 million people around the world are victims of modern slavery, with 13,000 being in the UK (Global Slavery Index).

The construction industry consists of a very complex and multi-levelled labour, supply chain network, making it difficult to identify where exactly the issue lies. Construction could not be a more prone environment for enslavement, with high numbers of low and semi-skilled workers, many of whom are supplied between labour agencies through short-term contracts.

Modern slavery and human trafficking is a direct result of unethical labour sourcing which may be channelled by intentional or unintentional procurement practices in this industry.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 has exposed issues and brought them further into the public eye as well as BRE’s BES 6001 framework standard and the British Standard BS 8902, targeting ethical and responsible sourcing.

In order for the industry to start to uncover any potential hidden goings-on of modern slavery, companies need to focus on becoming more embedded in their own supply chains, understanding where exactly they are sourcing from and how. Ensuring the attention and utmost consideration is given to human rights standards, to maintain a high level of ethical sourcing and eradicate hidden issues.

  • A successful approach to achieve transparency within supply chains is to establish a certified chain of custody. The Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) are examples of schemes that require certification of product, resource and labourers, effectively monitoring the industry’s activity.
  • Another approach is for organisations to investigate if their suppliers are abiding by the Ethical Trading Initiate (ETI) Base Code. This ensures the protection of human rights and working conditions.
  • There are also benefits for demonstrating responsible and ethical sourcing through accreditation schemes such as BREEAM and CEEQUAL.

Establishing more responsible and ethical sourcing improves the overall working conditions of the industry.

Footer Reference

Responsible Solutions (2016). Engaging with Ethical Sourcing, why should I bother?

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