A hotel group is launching an anti-slavery programme that will introduce procurement safeguards and teach more than 400 staff to spot the signs of modern slavery.
Shiva Hotels, whose portfolio includes Kingsway Hall in Covent Garden and several Hiltons in London, says it is the first hotel group to launch such a campaign across all of its hotels.
A six-month pilot took place at the London Excel DoubleTree, in which awareness training was given to staff and high-risk suppliers were identified.
This training is now being rolled out across the group while the procurement changes have been focused at group level because of supplier overlap between hotels.
Shiva Foundation, an anti-slavery charity funded by Shiva Hotels, is working with the group’s general manager and procurement lead across the portfolio. Sian Lea, senior programme manager at Shiva Foundation, told SM the process begins with risk mapping and supplier engagement to identify the high-risk and high-priority suppliers.
“Housekeeping and laundry services, those have been identified as high risk areas because of the fact they involve low skill and often migrant labour and they can often have various stakeholders throughout the chain,” she said. Food, and particularly seafood, was also flagged.
The group found its suppliers have varying levels of safeguarding. Once evaluated, usually with a questionnaire, Lea said the group will take a individualistic approach to bringing each supplier up to standard. “If those systems aren’t set up, that’s where it becomes a bit more nuanced. Do we have joint training? Do we have round tables where we discuss how to improve systems? And then it’s helping those ones with their engagement with their first tier suppliers.”
Working with suppliers that have with poor safeguards is important to the group as dropping them doesn’t stop them supplying other chains, said Lea. Lacking safeguards does not necessarily mean suppliers are criminal either. “It just means they haven’t got to that place where they’ve had to put the safeguards in place, so why not help equip them?” she said.
As well as developing procurement, the group’s training will also teach hotel staff to spot signs of trafficking, including overly controlling behaviour, adult guests trying to hide that they are with a young person and repeated cash bookings. It also plans to engage customers on the issue by displaying its commitment to combating slavery in lobbies and rooms.
The group is not the first to train staff to be aware of the signs of slavery, and other groups including Starwood Hotels are working to improve employee awareness.
The introduction of the Modern Slavery Bill – which became the Modern Slavery Act 2015 – started to turn the conversation towards slavery in the UK, said Lea. “We started to realise actually this is something that happens in this country,” she said.
Each year around 93,000 people are sexually exploited and another 4,500 exploited for their labour in European hotels according to COMBAT, an EU funded study.
Currently Shiva’s programme only reaches tier one suppliers. Lea says the group hopes to reach lower tiers as it progresses.
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