One of our key objectives relating to our ethical trading and human rights programme is about making sure our colleagues across the business understand our approach and how each of them can contribute to improving the lives of workers in our supply chains.
You will have all of seen media reports of concerns in supply chains from South East Asian to South America and even some within continental Europe. Some of the concerns around worker labour standards are severe, but no one can be complacent about the UK’s risk of modern slavery and good practice also has to start at home.
From the very start of our journey we recognised the UK as one of our ‘Focus countries’ to prioritise our efforts in getting greater awareness and risk management processes in place. In the UK Princes has ten manufacturing sites and 2,500 colleagues.
As recent convictions on Modern Slavery remind us all (for example the 88 victims who came forward and probable 300 victims involved in the modern slavery ring in the West Midlands)– slavery is not a phenomenon that exists in a developing regions or long-distance supply chains but has the potential to exist within our own UK manufacturing sites.
The British Government estimates that tens of thousands of people remain in modern slavery in the UK today and victims are not just trapped in prostitution, or working in nail bars and car washes, but in agriculture, construction, manufacturing and hospitality, amongst other sectors.
For that reason Princes chose to work with an industry-leading partner, Stronger Together, to help spread the word and provide practical steps for our colleagues to assess, identify and act on modern slavery risks. The reality is as well that our UK manufacturing based colleagues are arguably more likely to encounter modern slavery risks than our Head office-based Ethical Trading Team.
Stronger Together is a multi-stakeholder, business-led initiative aiming to reduce modern slavery, particularly hidden forced labour, labour trafficking and other third party exploitation of workers.
Working with this initiative meant that we were able to understand some of the basic requirements in our early days around how to communicate terms such as “labour exploitation” and “modern slavery” to an audience who don’t perhaps live and breathe this every day. Following on from this we developed a programme of training and awareness raising, led by our HR Teams at site, to communicate and embed our approach.
Engaging with site HR teams is critical – think of the number of risks that they, and others at site, must consider – own labour providers on the production line, but also workers employed in cleaning, security , catering and other on-site services.
We’ve also then gone an extra step in using Stronger Together’s Progress Reporting tool which provides a means for us to measure our progress and support the development of an action plan to fill in any gaps in areas such as public commitments to tackling modern slavery, risk assessment and ensuring appropriate remedies are in place for potential victims.
So whilst the risk may never go away completely, we’re in a much better place to act upon known or potential indicators – all of which helps towards eradicating modern slavery from Princes and Bidfood’s shared supply chains.