Sodexo UK & Ireland and its four biggest strategic suppliers have devised a Modern Slavery Strategic Supplier Forum.
The forum, which comprises Sodexo, Brakes, Bunzl Catering & Hospitality Division, Blue Arrow, and Mi Hub Ltd trading as Alexandra, will meet biannually to highlight risks, share best practice and agree common commitments to tackle modern slavery inside members’ respective organisations.
Modern slavery can emerge in several forms including forced labour and servitude and it is estimated that globally at least 40 million people are in modern slavery – a situation exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the UK and Ireland, Sodexo procures over £600 million worth of goods and services across its operations – food, consumables and disposables, uniform and specialist clothing as well as temporary agency staff. At a global level, this sum is more than £18 billion from a supply chain that connects Sodexo to at least 150,000 businesses.
The provider states that while dealing with such a diverse mix of suppliers, it is imperative that it works with procurement partners to mitigate and eliminate the risk of modern slavery and labour exploitation across the entire supply chain.
By working with its four largest domestic suppliers, Sodexo pledges to draw together their common experiences and identify ways of working together to tackle some of the underlying issues of modern slavery within both local and global supply chains.
The first forum meeting was held virtually on 27 April, during which each of the organisations presented details of current activity to combat modern slavery and outlined the principles and standards that their suppliers are expected to adhere to. Over the next six months, forum members have agreed to work together on joint communications initiatives to highlight existing whistle-blowing policies and procedures to guarantee that employees are comfortable with reporting in confidence any issue that is “unethical, illegal or unsafe”.
The forum will also pursue opportunities to work with the Ethical Trading Initiative, an independent organisation on sustainable procurement, to create joint projects to tackle modern slavery throughout the supply chain. It also plans to collaborate with the Slave Free Alliance – a social enterprise and membership initiative launched by the anti-slavery charity Hope for Justice.
Patrick Forbes, Sodexo’s head of supply management, UK & Ireland said: “Sodexo is a global business with a significant supply chain that connects us with more than 4,800 businesses in the UK and Ireland alone. Over the past 18 months, we have worked to better understand modern slavery in our global and domestic markets so we can equip our teams to identify risks within our supply chains and to question their suppliers more rigorously on this subject.
“This Strategic Supplier Forum offers an opportunity for the wider supply chain to work together to address this abhorrent crime and we look forward to collaborating with our partners.”
Image credit | Sodexo UK & Ireland