Public buyers need to identify the areas of risk in their organisations and focus on them to tackle human rights abuses, an event was told.
The CIPS SM Forum heard electronics, workwear, building materials and personal protective equipment were goods with a high risk of modern slavery. Services where low pay is prevalent – cleaning, security and catering – are also danger areas, particularly if they have been outsourced.
Delegates were told many electronic goods were assembled by hand in dangerous conditions, with “325 hands” involved in the production of an Apple iPad. Benzene, used to clean screens, causes leukemia but switching to a safer alternative would add just $1 to production costs.
Andy Davies, procurement manager at the Natural History Museum, said everyone was juggling priorities so it was important to focus on key areas. “Prioritise and look where you can have the most impact,” he said.
Davies said suppliers were falling down on modern slavery statements, a legal requirement for firms with turnovers above £36m under the Modern Slavery Act.
“There are still too many businesses who should be publishing statements still not doing it,” he said. Referring to the quality of statements, he said: “They read too much like policies – they don’t show progress. If you’re going to be a supplier of mine then your supply chain is my supply chain.”
Delegates were told a law requiring a 10% weighting for social value criteria in contracts was on the horizon.
Cristian Martin, head of procurement at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said: “There is a learning gap for many suppliers but it’s a huge opportunity for them. Public buyers are going to be demanding more [social value] so if you do it you will get more business. They need to step up. If you can get 10 points on your tender, that’s 10 points you don’t have to get on price.”
Martin said the LSE was gearing up for a supplier day where they would launch a code of conduct and help suppliers with their slavery statements.
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