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Sustainable supply chains: Are you doing enough?

The arrival of the Modern Slavery Act will send ripples throughout the industry, not knowing it is simply not an answer. So how can BRE make a positive change in this space?

Organisations with a turnover of more than £36m will have to start making publicly available statements about their approach to identifying and mitigating risks relating to aspects of Modern Slavery. This is not simply about directly employed people, this applies to those sub-contract employees and others further down the supply chain.

Whilst as a minimum it will be sufficient to state that the organisation has done nothing to understand these types of risks, it would be a rather short-sighted position to take for any organisation.

Building on the work we have already established in the area of Responsible Sourcing over six years, branching into a specific social impact was a logical step for the BRE Centre for Sustainable Products. The BES 6001 Framework Standard for the Responsible Sourcing of Construction Products does make organisations consider their policies in relation to human rights and International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, but a more focussed approach was needed.

In late January 2016, BRE invited a wide range of stakeholders (including clients, manufacturers, software experts and contractors) to start the discussion to develop a standard for Ethical Labour in the Supply Chain for Construction.

There was some healthy debate and a desire to change industry practice. Discussions also recognised that whatever approach comes out of the process it has to be able to work at all tiers of the supply chain. Risks are interpreted differently at the various tiers in a supply chain. We will need to recognise that many organisations have done fantastic work in the labour standard arena (such as ETI, UNGC, ILO etc); we need to build a standard upon these globally accepted frameworks.

The need for a standard in this space is compelling and, as a group, we have set out our ambition to have this ready for launch in the summer of 2016. Modern Slavery is happening and we have a responsibility to support the construction industry to develop more transparent and modern slavery free supply chains.

If you are interested in joining the stakeholder group, please contact Dr Shamir Ghumra.