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Ethical Labour Sourcing – A big leap for BRE, the industry and society

The Centre for Sustainable Products at BRE has a long tradition with product environmental assessment with products such as Environmental Profiles and the Green Guide to Specification. Over the past few years I have seen this evolve from a very quantitative approach to recognise the broader sustainability issues that touch procurement and supply chain assurance. We now have the well-established BES 6001 Framework Standard for Responsible Sourcing with a number of leading international companies being certificated to this standard. More recently we have launched the Ethical Labour Sourcing (ELS) standard and approach which takes us closer to the more subjective (and arguably more challenging issues) such as human rights due diligence and recognising how organisations can evolve and mature in their approaches. I see that having such a portfolio of products and services from the quantitative to the qualitative and the environmental to the social as a strength not only of the Centre for Sustainable Products but for BRE as a whole. We have to remain at the forefront of new research, application and standards and this represents one of the many innovations with an epicentre close to Junction 6 of the M1.

The ELS represents an approach to verify the commitment an organisation is making in relation to human rights due diligence both within its own operations and supply chains. The ELS does not purport to prove the absence of modern slavery but gives assurance that the organisations that are verified to the ELS will seek to improve year on year and are more likely to be actively looking in the right places rather than turning a blind eye.

The ELS Standard specifies the requirements for organisational management to demonstrate an on-going commitment to the principles of ethical labour sourcing in relation to the provision of products and services.

The requirements of the Standard provide a framework against which all organisations may be assessed. The framework comprises criteria for evaluating the maturity of the performance of the organisation under twelve issues. The twelve areas are:

  • Company Overview Management Policies
  • Management Systems Assurance & Audit
  • Human Resources Immigration
  • Procurement Supply Chain
  • Bribery & Corruption Learning/Development
  • Forums Reporting

The overall verification is not based on an aggregation of the levels of maturity in these issues, but is based on a commitment to improve through an agreed set of five objectives.

Many associations and professional institutions in the construction industry have already created some great toolkits and training materials on this topic such as the Supply Chain Sustainability School, CIPS and CIOB to name a few. We are planning the next step for the Modern Slavery agenda in the construction industry by working together for a higher purpose as an industry to eradicate Modern Slavery in our industry and then perhaps our society.