Investigations ‘must go deeper’ to uncover slavery

13 April 2021

Hospitality firms that have not found human rights abuses in their supply chains must deepen their investigations, investors have warned. 

CCLA Investment Management, a specialist fund manager for charities, churches and local authorities, said the “only test” concerning a firm’s efforts to tackle modern slavery was “whether they have found modern slavery in their supply chain and... whether they have taken steps to support the provision of remedy to victims”.

The fund manager launched its ‘Find It, Fix It, Prevent It’ initiative in November 2019 covering the hospitality sector and said it was "frankly surprised" firms had not uncovered more cases of slavery.

Among the investment firms signed up to the campaign were Aberdeen Standard Investments, Aviva, and Schroders as well as the Church of England’s investment arms.

Since the launch 16 investors have been engaging with 13 of the largest UK-listed hospitality firms such as InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Carnival, Whitbread and JD Wetherspoon.

CCLA praised work by IHG to find and address forced labour issues in its operations in Oman. 

“Concerns were identified around its migrant workers and the group took steps to interview a subset of these workers in a pilot project. The interview process which revealed modern slavery issues covered a range of topics including their recruitment journeys and if fees were paid, whether workers had access to passports and identity documents, their living and working conditions and whether they were being fairly remunerated for their work,” CCLA said. 

Peter Hugh Smith, chief executive at CCLA, said: “While we abhor modern slavery, we applaud the fact that InterContinental Hotels Group has looked for it and found it and we encourage them to take steps to address and provide remedy to the victims.

“Given the pervasiveness of modern slavery, we are frankly surprised that the other companies involved in the Find It, Fix It, Prevent It engagement have not found it and urge them to deepen their investigations because it is most likely there.”

The initiative will be broadened out to the construction and materials sector this year, CCLA said. The construction sector is the second highest risk sector for forced labour and employs around 7% of the global workforce.

Dame Sara Thornton, the UK’s independent anti-slavery commissioner, added: “No large supply chain is safe from the risk of modern slavery, but it thrives in environments where there is weak governance, poor oversight and failure to align with international human rights standards. 

“Businesses must do more to root out the causes of exploitation and protect the most vulnerable workers in their supply chains. Investors have a pivotal role to play in ensuring that they do this.”

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