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20 Sep 2017

There are an estimated 45.8million people in modern slavery, in 167 countries worldwide. There is also an estimated 21million victim of forced labour operations. The construction industry has been tackling sourcing issues associated with environmental responsibility, for some time – having, for instance, managed stewardship impacts in terms of pollution and biodiversity, or Chain of Custody validation with materials such as timber. It is the ethical dimension which has emerged recently that is presenting fresh challenges and stretching existing resources.

This calls for updated cultural approaches and demands different working practices. Integrating this rethinking into its everyday beliefs and behaviours represents a significant step forward for construction as an industry, bringing together the good and the green of sustainable business.

At present, there is a clear disconnect between the aspiration and the actuality. Slavery remains rife in the global supply chain, for example. Whilst public and professional demand for positive brand values and corporate purpose might be strong and rising, the reality can prove different and troubling, even tragic.

As a result, a modern-day business operating in the construction sector, dealing with supply chains that are not only long and global, but also complex in nature, can find itself exposed to reputational risk and commercial threat, with labour rights only one of the responsible and ethical sourcing concerns it faces. UK public scrutiny of employment standards and labour rights also intensified significantly in 2015 with the introduction of the Living Wage and the Modern Slavery Act.

It seemed inevitable that tough questions would start getting asked about organisations’ and companies’ ethical policies and practices. In construction, known for its long and complex global supply chains, these questions do not simply stop at the entrance to the building site, or even the UK border.

The APRES (Action Programme on Responsible and Ethical Sourcing) Eight Pathways Model is an important new contribution to knowledge. It builds on academic research, market intelligence, co-created insights, plus sound management systems and practices from some of the leaders in the field. It also holds the keys to progress and success; helping organisations achieve supply-chain excellence and sustainable procurement in the 21st century.

The eight pathways are based on the critical areas of operation in a business: from initial policy-making, via compliance, right through to PR and continuous improvement. The journey to take an organisation from where it is now on responsible and ethical sourcing to where it ultimately wants to be, begins with some very practical steps. The key to getting started on turning good intentions into positive actions is having clear pathways towards change and success.

Accountability should remain an absolute must for supply-chain excellence and sustainable procurement in this day and age – the pressure from both public and commercial parties to demonstrate transparency and traceability is simply not going to go away. Addressing those concerns, the APRES Eight Pathways Model holds the keys to progress and success in implementing a strategic plan of action for organisations throughout the world.

Shamir Ghumra
About the Author
Director of Sustainable Products BRE

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