Today (18 October) is Anti-Slavery Day. A day for reflection. A day for thinking about this scourge of our society and what we can do to help alleviate the suffering.
We know that abusing and exploiting people is both easy and lucrative. The International Labour Organisation estimates that 21,000,000 people across the world are in forced labour. This evil crime generates $150,000,000,000 in illegal profits around the world, every year. While here in the United Kingdom, the Home Office estimates that up to 13,000 people are living in modern slavery today.
But we, being involved in the purchase of millions of pounds worth of goods and services every year, with and on behalf of our Members, have the power to influence markets and decision-makers. We can and do make a difference together. Purchasing consortia shouldn’t be just about getting better value. We should also be about getting best value without causing harm to others.
To protect people from modern slavery, human trafficking, forced and bonded labour and other human rights abuses, we in the procurement profession are going to have to acquire new skills. We will have to learn to do things a little differently. Like working with our suppliers to find risks in our supply chains, and taking action to mitigate those risks. We need to be ready to share that responsibility. This is a problem in our society – not just our supplier base – and that means it’s one we have to work together to manage.
At LUPC, we’ve made a good start, as we hope you’ll agree. Becoming a leader in ethical and sustainable procurement is an important part of our corporate strategy. And we think we’ve done quite a lot so far. But there is a long way to go and a lot more to do.
- Awards innovative new framework agreement for sustainable waste management services.
- Becomes founding member of Electronics Watch, an independent monitoring organisation for public buyers in the global electronics industry.
- With Electronics Watch, works with suppliers to stop students working in forced labour conditions in a factory producing IT servers.
- Attains Level 4 of the Sustainable Procurement Flexible Framework, with independent expert verification.
- Becomes the first purchasing consortium in public service to publish its own Statement under the Modern Slavery Act. Supports MSA training for university buyers.
- Partners with the Business Human Rights and Environment Research Group at the University of Greenwich. BHRE’s leader, Dr Olga Martin-Ortega, joins LUPC’s Board to further its sustainability agenda.
- Participates in a number of international civil society events developing thinking in business and human rights, including the International Learning Lab on Public Procurement and Human Rights.
- Introduces Electronics Watch clauses to new, national higher education agreement for Apple products, requiring suppliers to respect labour standards in Apple’s supply chain.
- Awards new cleaning and security services agreements committing suppliers to take steps to protect workers from human trafficking.
We know there’s a lot more we can be doing to protect human rights and the environment in our supply chains. And we’ve learned that we can do much more when we work in collaboration with others. Now we want to work more closely with students, sustainability managers, academics and other experts, as well as buyers.
And starting when our new LUPC Ethical and Sustainable Procurement Advisory Group meets for the first time on 11 November, we will expand our ethical and sustainable procurement programme, so that we can better reflect the values and direction of our Members.
We will report on our progress.