Talking Point: A two-sector approach to end slavery in construction

Hotels and the construction industry need to work together to tackle modern slavery

Hotels and the construction industry need to work together to tackle modern slavery

There are 40 million people trapped in modern slavery with 25 million of those being in forced labour according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Their recent report reveals that among those, 18 percent are in construction. With the hotel industry being closely linked to construction Director of Sustainability and Group Marketing Director Chris Harrop of Marshalls, British manufacturer of natural stone and landscaping products and supplier to the construction, interior design and landscape industries. He outlined strategies to promote sustainability in the construction industry and shared his thoughts on how the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 can become more effective.

In the UK, the Modern Slavery Act legislation delivers a high level of corporate focus to illuminate the hidden crimes of modern slavery. It emphasises the need for greater attention on practices in supply chains at board level, rather than just the supply chains themselves. The more that people investigate, the more we find that we under-represent or under-report figures for modern slavery across the world.

However, the arbitrary setting of a revenue level of £36 million for company compliance is too high. It has to be brought down significantly because there are companies in the UK which employ through international supply chains that are not caught by the Act. Potentially, this gives them a competitive advantage by doing the wrong thing.

The construction sector works alongside a particular organisation called the Building Research Establishment (BRE) to tackle forced labour. They have created two standards. The standard, 6001, is responsible sourcing and the other standard, 6002, is an ethical labour standard. So, the sector is encouraging construction and building material companies to apply these standards to their own activities, whether it be constructing or manufacturing in the UK or overseas. 

ITP's Goal for human rights highlights the need for hotels and the construction industry to work much more closely together to prevent human rights abuses, but how do we begin this conversation?

The starting point is to map out supply chains properly. Therefore, we need to consider where the materials are coming from and where the labour is coming from. This is important because the labourers construct, operate and maintain the hotel or resort. A supply chain mapping exercise and a labour mapping exercise in build operations would help immensely. Once more, focusing on good costs and bad costs is beneficial. Obviously good costs will add value or deliver a product or good service to an organisation and bad costs is simply waste.

So how can hoteliers make the very buildings they construct more sustainable from the ground up?

From an environmental perspective, you need responsible sourcing. So, you need to consider where the materials are coming from and look at the environmental footprint of the building. In addition, it needs to be recognised that environmental impact is largely found in the operation and maintenance phase. Having a holistic view that would not just look at the building phase but the project as a whole. For example, could changing the building materials or even the design of a building see a carbon reduction over the lifetime of a resort or hotel?

From a social perspective, you need to ensure that living wages were paid and that the standards of ethical sourcing are met. Furthermore, you need to implement a clear, transparent process to ensure you knew who was employing whom.

Chris will speak further on this subject at the Second Global Modern Slavery and Supply Chain Summit on the 14th November 2017, London. He will be alongside leading business and policymakers, such as; JLL, Travis Perkins, Nokia, Sainsbury's, Twinings, Baroness Young and the Gangmaster Labour Abuse Authority and more. Find out more here:

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