What can you do to tackle modern slavery?

The International Labour Organisation estimates that 40.3 million people live in modern slavery. One in four are children, almost half of whom are aged between 5 and 11. It’s estimated that 13,000 people are victims of modern slavery in the UK alone.

The inhuman and cruel exploitation of people is widespread and more relevant to public procurement than you might think. Modern slavery is a clear and present risk in the supply chains for many common goods and services.

Why modern slavery matters

Abolishing modern slavery from supply chains is one of the UK government’s top priorities.

The UK Modern Slavery Act (2015) requires all businesses operating in the UK with an annual turnover of £36 million or more to publish an annual Transparency In Supply Chains (TISC) statement. In its statement, each company has to show what steps they have taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in their business or any part of their supply chain – or admit that they have done nothing.

Although public sector organisations are not required to produce TISC statements, this is set to change. The Prime Minister recently made a statement to Parliament following the G20 summit in which she confirmed that the UK Government will be publishing the steps departments are taking to identify and prevent modern slavery via their own transparency statements.

Working with others – a new approach

The Government knows that public sector procurement could be a powerful tool in the fight against modern slavery. But public sector buyers need to understand how to map out the risks in their supply chains, and take steps to manage them.

Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has been working with the Home Office and Cabinet Office to develop a package of measures to tackle modern slavery in government procurement.

In addition to the work on a new government TISC statement, new measures include:

  • A new Modern Slavery Procurement Policy Note (PPN) and guidance, scheduled to be published early in the new year;
  • A supplier self-assessment tool called the Modern Slavery Assessment Tool (MSAT), that will require significant government suppliers to disclose what they have done to tackle modern slavery in their own organisations and supply chains;
  • New training to help commercial staff identify modern slavery and manage risks in their supply chains.

What is CCS doing?

CCS first risk-screened its procurements in 2010, using the Ethical Trade Initiative tools and its own market sector knowledge. The purpose of risk screening is to identify where the risks are and develop procurement strategies that reflect these risks.

More recently, we have spoken with the Home Office Modern Slavery Unit, Ethical Trading Initiative, Stronger Together and UNICEF, as well as experts from public procurement bodies, such as the International Learning Lab on public procurement and human rights.

We have also worked alongside, and shared best practice with, leaders in this field from the University of Liverpool, the Department of Health (Sustainable Development Unit), the Department for International Development, and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

CCS adopted the Standard Selection Questionnaire (SSQ) in its procurements in 2015. The SSQ uses the Modern Slavery Act and other levers in relation to EU social and labour law and other collective agreements and standards as mandatory and discretionary exclusion grounds. Suppliers are asked to confirm whether they have breached their obligations in the field of EU and UK Social and Labour law and other collective agreements and standards.

We also worked in partnership with the Government Legal Department and the Government Digital Service to develop a shorter and simpler contract for common goods and services called the Public Sector Contract (PSC).

This includes a Corporate Social Responsibility Schedule which requires our suppliers to prepare an annual slavery and human trafficking report setting out the steps they have taken to ensure slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any part of its business or supply chain.

In areas such as Construction and ICT Hardware, where there are risks related to health and safety, forced and bonded labour and labour standard breaches, we have worked closely with customers, suppliers and other key stakeholders to make them aware of the risks and develop a set of principles to tackle these abuses.

We also clearly set out our expectations in our specifications and contracts to deliver continuous improvement. You can read more about our work with Electronics Watch here.

What can we all do?

Tackling modern slavery requires everyone who works in public sector procurement, including suppliers, to be aware of the risk areas where modern slavery is most likely to occur and to have a plan to address those risks.

It is important that buyers:

  • map supply chains to understand risks
  • engage with stakeholders and suppliers to make sure everyone understands those risks what is expected of them
  • develop procurement strategies that address the risks
  • set out those expectations in procurement documents, including your specification and contract
  • undertake due diligence before, and after, the the contract has been awarded
  • work collaboratively with suppliers to develop continuous improvement programmes to tackle modern slavery after the contract has been awarded

Find out more

Webinars were held in November and December for public sector staff to help them understand:

  • What modern slavery is and the scale of the problem
  • The legal framework and their obligations
  • How they can tackle modern slavery in their supply chains and procurements

If you weren’t able to make these sessions, you can read the webinar slides and notes here. If you missed out we will be running more webinars after the PPN is published.

Get in touch

If you have any queries please get in touch:

  • fill in our online form and mention ‘Modern Slavery’ in the comments box
  • call us on 0345 410 2222