CIPS CEO David Noble says no business should assume that its supply chain is free from the scourge of slavery – and they need to collaborate to confront it.
An increase in global sourcing has highlighted some serious issues, including, unwittingly or otherwise, modern slavery in supply chains. From every perspective – reputational, financial and ethical – this is unacceptable.
The issue of modern slavery first came to my attention in 2012 when I met Andrew Forrest of the Walk Free Foundation. Andrew set up Walk Free with his wife Nicola in 2012 after their daughter witnessed slavery while working in an orphanage in Nepal.
I was astonished to discover more people are working in forced or bonded labour than ever before and I realised CIPS had a vital role to play in helping business to understand slavery not only still exists, but that it probably exists in their own supply chains.
Since 2012, we have been working to get the message out. From the Vatican City in 2015, where I witnessed the historic signing by faith leaders of a joint declaration committed to the eradication of modern slavery by 2020, to a meeting at the White House to see how CIPS can support the G20’s Anti-Corruption Implementation Plan, we have raised awareness and gained support for CIPS and the procurement profession.
For organisations to future-proof and protect themselves from reputational disaster while meeting shareholder and stakeholder demands, they must ensure their supply chains meet an acceptable and globally recognised standard. To that end, we have campaigned for organisations to help us license our profession. We can no longer accept inadequate practice and a licensing structure would put necessary measures in place.
In October last year, the UK’s independent anti-slavery commissioner, Kevin Hyland, and chief executive of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, Paul Broadbent, joined our call and pledged their support for a self-regulatory licence for the profession. With the support of these senior influencers and other businesses leaders, we should see the standard of procurement improve dramatically.
To raise awareness within our own community, in December 2013 we joined forces with Traidcraft and Walk Free on The Ethical and Sustainable Procurement Guide to help identify suppliers who subject workers to poor wages, inhumane conditions or forced labour, and to put prevention measures in place.The following month, we launched the CIPS ethical e-learning course and test, which covered corruption, fraud, bribery, exploitation, human rights and forced labour. I recommend all staff responsible for sourcing and managing suppliers take this test – and, if everyone in an organisation completes it, it will become listed on the CIPS Corporate Ethical Register and receive the Corporate Ethical Mark.
This sends out a strong and clear message to suppliers that unethical behaviour will not be tolerated.
CIPS also provided guidance to the Home Office in the creation of the 2015 Modern Slavery Act. For too long supply chain transparency has been overlooked, and we hope that this legislation sends out a clear message to business leaders that they are accountable for all discrepancies, no matter how far down the chain. However, our recent survey, shows significant proportions of UK businesses subject to the new requirement, are still woefully unprepared. A fifth of procurement professionals are not aware of the obligation, a quarter don’t know how to comply and 40% are yet to read the guidance.
My message to business leaders is clear. We must work together to ensure procurement teams are ethically and professionally licensed to effectively manage the changing global environment in which we work. Good corporate governance of supply chains is the critical piece of this jigsaw.
☛ David Noble is group CEO, CIPS