The London Universities Purchasing Consortium (LUPC) has become the first UK public sector consortium to publish a statement concerning the steps it has taken to guard against human rights abuses and modern slavery in its supply chain.
LUPC has made the move despite its annual turnover being below the legal £36 million threshold at which firms will have to report under the Modern Slavery Act.
The organisation said: "LUPC is committed to improving transparency in its supply chains and acquiring goods and services for its members without causing harm to others."
In its statement LUPC identified the principal risk categories in its supply chains as office supplies, laboratory consumables, ICT equipment and some estates services, such as cleaning and security services.
A large amount of office supplies and laboratory consumables are sourced by distributors from producers in low-cost countries in south and south east Asia, Africa and South America.
LUPC said many suppliers in these higher risk categories have committed to the Base Code of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and it was trying to persuade its remaining suppliers in these categories to join them.
When a cleaning contract is re-tendered in 2016 new clauses will be introduced that require cleaning suppliers to commit to the ETI Base Code and the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers.
It will also require cleaning suppliers, which generally recruit in a low paid market, to ensure that they take steps to guard against labour and human rights abuses in this supply chain.
LUPC Director Andy Davies said: “By publishing this statement on behalf of our members, we are sending a message to suppliers that monitoring and improving labour conditions in their supply chains is a priority.
“We all have a contribution to make in eradicating child labour, excessive working hours, unsafe working conditions and a range of other issues... We hope more organisations will now follow suit and join this global campaign.”