Construction coalition to raise awareness of modern slavery
Building Research Establishment (BRE), the British Standards Institution (BSI) Supply Chain Services and Solutions, and strategic communications partner Sustain Worldwide have announced the formation of a coalition of leading construction sector institutions and associations with the shared objective of raising awareness to eradicate modern slavery in construction supply chains.
The Coalition’s supporters include the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), Build UK, Constructing Excellence, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) and Supply Chain Sustainability School. Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), BHRRC, IHRB and Stronger Together are among the supporters from civil society.
Dr Shamir Ghumra, Director, Centre for Sustainable Products, BRE, said: “The construction sector’s institutions’ and associations’ support for the Charter demonstrates their intent to raise awareness among their members of the heinous practice of modern slavery. The Charter acts to coalesce the construction industry and provides a focal point for government and civil society to collaborate with the sector on business human rights issues.”
The Charter supports the principle that slavery, in all its forms, has no place in commerce of any type. Signatories commit to seek opportunities to uphold, preserve and promote the right of freedom in the United Kingdom’s Construction Industry. Specifically, they commit to:
1. Act in accordance with the laws and regulations to which they are subject
2. Develop tools, materials and training that support the development of best practice approaches to the issue of business and human rights
3. Support best practice through partnerships and research
4. Use their influence, and working with relevant authorities, to support the abolition of
illegal and unethical practices whenever they are found
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA) has brought the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking to the attention of British businesses and civil society. Its Section 54 clause, Transparency in Supply Chains (TISC), highlights the risk to business of finding examples of it in global supply chains. Several high-profile court case have highlighted the illegal practices taking place across Britain.
BRE has developed The Ethical Labour Standard (ELS) to support business to meet its human rights challenges, improve efficiencies and demonstrate continuous improvement. The standard provides a framework for the verification of ethical labour sourcing, and to give a route to verification of products and services. The standard can be used as a business improvement tool without a business seeking verification.
BSI’s business intelligence tools and services include their Supply Chain Risk Exposure Evaluation Network (SCREEN) solution, Supplier Compliance Manager (SCM) solution, and its Advisory Services, specifically the Trafficking & Supply Chain Slavery Patterns Index. The Index is a new way to assess and avoid the risks posed by slavery and trafficking. It is unique in cross-referencing 191 source countries of displaced people, and their likelihood of being exploited in 193 destination countries. Each combination of countries has been ranked from low to severe based on the risk score.
Chris McCann, Principal Consultant, Supply Chain Services and Solutions at BSI, said: “The UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commission has identified construction as one of its four core focus sectors. Through the Charter, the construction industry demonstrates to Government, civil society, and indeed all stakeholders, that leaders in the sector are committed to working together to ensure human rights are actively promoted in their direct operations and global supply chains.”
The CIOB has around 45,000 members, drawn from a broad cross section of built environment disciplines and representing many of construction’s leading clients and contractors. Its most recent antislavery initiatives include the publication of Building a fairer system: tackling modern slavery in construction supply chains in July 2016, and the launch of the Anti Slavery Toolkit, in collaboration with Stronger Together in February 2017. Its training arm, the CIOB Academy, is developing an ongoing programme of anti-slavery and ethics-based CPD training packages.
CIOB Chief Executive Chris Blythe OBE said: “We are delighted to be part of this cross-industry collaboration. The Charter provides an unprecedented opportunity for industry and trade bodies to come together with a unified voice and message. Worker exploitation is a global problem intertwined with most international supply chains. It will take vigilance, top level leadership and a consistent approach to bring meaningful change.”
Collaborate to avoid commercial risks and systemic failures
Clients should work collaboratively to minimise commercial risks and avoid inappropriate risk transfer as this will not only lead to a negative outcome on individual contracts but also systemic failure in a fragile market, the Construction Leadership Council has warned.
The CLC, in collaboration with NEC, has today published joint guidance to industry and clients on dealing with and accommodating the impact of Covid-19 on work under NEC4 contracts.
The guidance adds to the suite of outputs from the CLC’s Business Models: Contractual Best Practice group which has routinely called for strategic collaboration between clients and the supply chain to avoid systemic market failures and compromised project delivery.
The guidance focuses on the NEC4 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC), although it can also be applied to the NEC4 Engineering and Construction Subcontract (ECS), NEC3 ECC and ECS, subject to some amends which are outlined within the guidance.
To help clients and the supply chain to collaborate, the joint guidance offers support in navigating a number of circumstances within the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, including: Act of prevention; Project Manager’s instructions; Compensation events; Evaluation of a COVID-19 Related Compensation Event; Working Areas; Resource Utilisation; and Dealing with risk on future contracts.
Steve Bratt, Chair of the CLC’s Business Models Workstream said this guidance was developed in response to a series of questions which were raised with regard to projects impacted by Covid-19 operating under NEC contracts.
“As industry continues to manage the challenges of Covid-19, we are becoming increasingly concerned that many outstanding disputes remain unresolved and much uncertainty exists with regard to future contracts," he said. "We are therefore keen to do all we can to ensure clients work with their supply chains to fairly and collaboratively manage the commercial risks caused by Covid-19. Safety is paramount, but collaborative risk sharing will ensure secure project delivery and a long-term sustainable industry.”
Covid-19, safe working procedures and wider disruption has presented all parties with unquantifiable and unmanageable risks and costs, he added. Traditional behaviours such as inappropriate risk transfer will not only lead to a negative outcome on individual contracts but will almost certainly lead to systemic failure in a fragile market seeking to build back greener and better.
Peter Higgins, Chairman of the NEC4 Contract Board said NEC is pleased to have worked with the Construction Leadership Council in preparing this advice on dealing with covid-related issues under NEC contracts. "NEC has always been a contract focusing on the parties working together to achieve a successful contract, and this guidance will help in managing collaboratively the risks which have arisen from COVID-19," he said.
Industry leaders have called for acceleration of rules relaxing requirements for COVID-19 self-isolation for double-vaccinated workers. Currently the rules will only be relaxed on August 16.
CLC co-chair Andy Mitchell said it has received reports from across the industry of plants, sites and offices having to wind down activities as staff have been asked to isolate.
"This is putting very significant pressure on the sector, risking project delivery and even the viability of some firms. Where staff are already fully vaccinated, and recognising that such people will be free to work from 16 August anyway, we are asking the Government to bring forward this date for essential industries like construction, ensuring that the industry doesn’t grind to a halt."
An RICS survey of the global construction sector found over 40% of professionals reporting an increase in disputes since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. By contrast, fewer than 3% of respondents noted a fall in disputes over the same time, suggesting that the pandemic is exerting further pressure on an already stressed industry.