Seasonal workers are protected by the code's commitments ©Getty Images
Seasonal workers are protected by the code's commitments ©Getty Images

Welsh supply chain code explained

Here is how businesses in Wales are applying ethical labour guidelines

In March this year, the Welsh Government launched a Code of Practice on Ethical Employment in Supply Chains. With the Welsh public sector spending around £6bn on goods, works and services with complex, international supply chains, all Welsh public bodies and those businesses supplying them are expected to sign up to the code, with other Welsh organisations encouraged to do so.

The code has 12 commitments, ranging from appointing an anti-slavery and ethics champion and training procurement professionals on modern slavery to ensuring blacklisting is not used anywhere in the supply chain and considering paying all staff the Living Wage, as set by the Living Wage Foundation.

At a CIPS Fellows event in London, Sue Hurrell, the special projects manager at the Welsh Government responsible for the Code, shared its progress so far. Here are three key takeaways:

1. Be wary of the gig economy

There is a clear link between the unscrupulous employment practices sometimes linked to the growing gig economy and the risk of modern slavery in supply chains, according to Hurrell. “If you’re not certain how people are employed, how can you be certain they are not enslaved?” she asked. “It’s about being aware of and interested in the people in your supply chain. People matter and we should not be trading them off against other things.” That’s not to say all forms of temporary labour are bad, but rather that procurement needs to be aware of the risk areas and not turn a blind eye to how people are employed. 

2. Procurement can lead

This is an opportunity for procurement to lead in a critical area of growing public concern. “The opportunity is there to set standards in how people are being treated,” said Hurrell. She advised procurement professionals to add relevant questions to the tender process in order to drive change and to scrutinise data on employment matters during the contract management process. “Procurement is very powerful,” she added. “This could change the way businesses start to operate.”

3. Take a proportionate approach

The Welsh Government’s code fits on two sides of A4 and is voluntary. The aim is to achieve a positive trickle-down effect through the supply chain. “There’s nothing that should stop an organisation from signing up,” believes Hurrell. Success comes from taking a proportionate approach, prioritising actions and taking time to implement the 12 commitments in full, rather than via meaningless box-ticking. “It’s about due diligence, not ‘do minimum’,” said Hurrell.

You can read, and sign up for, the Code of Practice here: http://bit.ly/walesCOP

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