NHS Supply Chain gives buyers anti-slavery training

NHS Supply Chain has trained three-quarters of its buyers on the Modern Slavery Act and aims to reach 100% by the end of 2017.

Since the introduction of the act in 2015, NHS Supply Chain has widened its ethical procurement programme, building capability and raised awareness of the legislation within the organisation and among suppliers. 

In its 2016 Sustainable Development Report NHS Supply Chain said suppliers were invited to participate in webinars that highlighted the practical issues of labour standards management and their obligations under the Modern Slavery Act. Partners are encouraged to complete modern slavery assessments and upload them to the Home Office website.

Five years ago NHS Supply Chain partnered with the Department of Health to develop the Labour Standards Assurance System (LSAS), a set of conditions to ensure good labour practice. More than 200 suppliers are subject to the system across a range of frameworks.

The report said NHS Supply Chain had achieved savings of £200m by the end of 2016, against a target of £300m savings between 2013 and 2018.

Among its sustainability achievements, the organisation said it had cut energy use across its offices and warehouses and cut waste and water use, including more than 7m gallons of water over two years by introducing waterless urinals.

The report also highlights NHS Supply Chain’s effort to minimise their carbon footprint with the purchase of a 120-vehicle fleet equipped with cleaner engines. Drivers are being trained in the use of telematics to improve route efficiency.

“Our report demonstrates how sustainability is increasingly embedded in the roles of our buyers,” said Stephanie Gibney, ethical and sustainability manager at NHS Supply Chain. “It’s at the forefront of their consciousness when making business decisions, alongside cost, quality and service. It’s becoming simply how we do business.”

NHS Supply Chain requires all of its suppliers to commission third party audits to understand issues within the organisation and their supply chain.

The LSAS is crucial for suppliers operating in countries where evidence of abuses such as forced or bonded labour is rife, said the report. The greatest risks of modern slavery exist in places with limited visibility, where regulatory enforcement is weak or non-existent.  

David Pierpoint, chief operating officer at NHS Supply Chain, said: “Our 2015-16 report demonstrates how procuring through NHS Supply Chain helps drive sustainable value through procurement and logistics. The focus on ethical procurement and transparency forms a key part of the report. By working cross-functionally with our suppliers and stakeholders we can understand more about our impact and help ensure sustainable activity is embedded in the business.”

The organisation has started to globally map supply chains where poor industry practice and societal factors converge to create opportunities for exploitation. 

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