Transparency in Universities Supply Chains: BHRE Comparative Report

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By Patrycja Krupinska

The BHRE has produced its comparative report titled ‘UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 Transparency in Supply Chains: The Second Year of Reporting by Universities,’ as part of our Research Series Reports. The report presents our findings and qualitative analysis conducted on 98 modern slavery statements produced by universities in the second year of reporting for the financial year 2016-17.

The purpose behind our research was to draw a comparison between modern slavery statements produced by universities in the first year of reporting versus statements produced in the second year of reporting. To view our first report click here.

Reporting universities have mainly been directed by the Act and the government guide to produce their statements. A government guide titled ‘Transparency in Supply Chains etc. A practical guide’ was published with the intention of providing explanation how businesses should comply with the MSA as well as lay out expectations for modern slavery statements and guidance on what best practice looks like. 

Section 54 of the MSA 2015 requires commercial entities to report annually on their actions to identify, prevent and mitigate modern slavery in own supply chains. Commercial entities have been defined in the Act as suppliers of goods and services with a total annual turnover of £36 million or more. As most universities’ turnovers are in the hundreds of millions of pounds their reporting is significantly important. Only one university which has not met the threshold in the financial year 2016-17 has been identified however as many universities have not published their turnover numbers this figure could potentially be higher.

The deadline for universities reporting and our first set of data collection was the 31st January 2018. We found that up to this date only 63 universities have reported for the financial year 2016-17 which is a decrease in the number of reporting universities from last year. However, In May 2018, with the help of the Higher Education Procurement Association (HEPA) we analysed a further 34 statements, which had been published after the deadline. The increase of reporting was due, in part, to the featuring of our research in Research Professional (see Universities Failing to Disclose Slavery Risks, 19th February) and HEPA´s communications to universities regarding their modern slavery reporting obligations. 

From the data collected by the BHRE it is apparent that not many universities recognise the requirement to report annually. In the case of entities which have reported in the first year, this could be because no changes or minor changes were made, however, by not reporting each year an entity is not complying with the requirement of the Act. Our research so far has found that 115 universities have reported so far and 2 universities have either not published a statement or not made it accessible to the public.

Our comparative report findings have revealed mixed results over the six criteria that paragraph 5.2 of s.54 of the Act has suggested universities should report on. This criteria provides a non-exhaustive list which includes: organisational structure, its business and supply chains; its policies relating to slavery and human trafficking; its due diligence processes; the parts of its business and supply chains where there is a risk of slavery and human trafficking, and the steps it has taken to assess and manage that risk; its effectiveness in ensuring that slavery and human trafficking is not taking, measured against such performance indicators as it considers appropriate; the training and capacity building available to its staff.

When comparing statements by looking at the first criteria the general trend we have found is that although we have passed the second year of reporting there has not been any significant improvement in reporting on this criteria. Effective reporting can only be achieved if organisations have good knowledge and understanding of their own supply chain and how their organisations are structured.

The criteria of policy has certainty become one many universities have considered over the two years since the Act has come into place and where one does not already have a standalone policy in place or embedded modern slavery and human trafficking into existing policies there are certainty plans to do so in the coming years with some already taking preliminary work.

Due diligence is the most reported on criteria with only two universities, out of the 98 universities reporting the second year, not reporting on this. The general trend is that in the second year of reporting the greater majority of universities, both those reporting for the second and for the first time, have provided more detail on their due diligence processes and measures explaining how they conduct due diligence rather than simply saying that measures and processes are in place. However, our research also revealed that a significant number of institutions are still not aware of the impact that their purchasing decisions may be having beyond their own gates.

The first step in adopting effective due diligence processes should be to identify potential risks within the supply chain. There is increasing effort in universities conducting risk assessment however most still tend to prioritise implementing new due diligence processes before identifying risks. This isn’t good practice and only a small number of universities seem to have prioritised risk assessment over implementing new due diligence measures.

The government guidance encourages organisations to report on the effectiveness of their measures, including any key performance indicators related to anti-slavery actions. This criteria is the least reported on with over half of universities not reporting on it.  This is however most likely due to the fact that the MSA has only come into force two and a half years ago thus making it difficult for universities to report on the effectiveness of the measures taken so far. The upcoming reports, therefore, should see an increase in universities reporting on this criteria.

The government guidance states that organisations should think about where training should be targeted to have the most effect. Training can be expensive as well as time consuming and the majority of universities opted to target training mainly at those in the procurement teams and very few mention providing training to their suppliers. From our research we are able to conclude that in the second year of reporting more universities refer to training in their statements than in the first year of reporting.

Overall, we have seen increased effort from universities to report and work towards greater transparency in their supply chains as well as greater understanding of the importance to identify risks, monitor supply chains as well as put into place tailored due diligence processes. The road to transparency in supply chains, however, is without a doubt a long one.

We are greatful to HEPA for helping us identify the statements produced after the reporting deadline of 31st January 2018. Whilst upmost care has been put to find the statements we are aware that we might have missed some. We would appreciate if you contact us if your statement has been omitted (o.martin-ortega@gre.ac.uk).

The authors are grateful to Kim Everett and Emma Keenan for the comments they provided during the revision of this report.

Patrycja is Research intern at the BHRE and project manager on the joint LUPC-BHRE Modern Slavery Project. For her profile please follow this link.   

Local Authorities at the Forefront of the Modern Anti-Slavery Campaign

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By Anna Gorna

The BHRE has published its second report in the BHRE Research Series titled “UK Modern Slavery Act Transparency in Supply Chains: Reporting by Local Authorities”. In the months since our UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 Transparency in Supply Chains: The First Year of Reporting by Universities report, BHRE has compiled and carried out qualitative analysis of the Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement (a Statement) produced by Local Authorities.

The Transparency in Supply Chains Provision under section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA) requires commercial entities with a turnover over £36 million to report annually on their actions to identify, prevent and mitigate modern slavery and human trafficking in any part of their own business and any of their supply chains.  It quickly becomes obvious that many entities are not covered by the requirement of producing a Statement, including Local Government Authorities.

As far as Local Authorities are concerned, they could have, for all intents and purposes, dismissed the calls of producing a Statement. Despite that, we have seen that Local Authorities were not discouraged. Demonstrating notable awareness and ethical leadership, many decided to voluntarily report on their activities and published their own Statements. Local Authorities, along with Universities, who in contrast are legally required to report under the MSA, are at the forefront of the modern anti-slavery campaign within the public sector.

The first years of reporting have provided an intense learning period for public bodies, in terms of their obligations and responsibilities under the MSA in particular and more generally regarding the human rights of those in their supply chains. This learning process has even been apparent, including for those who are not actually obliged by the act, such as local authorities.” [UK Modern Slavery Act Transparency in Supply Chains: Reporting by Local Authorities, March 2018, p.3]

Over the two years of modern slavery reporting [up until 31st January 2018], 43 Councils have published a statement. Although this number is by no means a majority, it is encouraging to see that many Councils are reporting voluntarily.  The wide range of services that Councils contract and the many goods that they procure, coupled with their broad outreach to the public, will allow for modern slavery awareness to spread to the wider society.

Our research has found that statements published to date, demonstrate a clear understanding of several reporting requirements.  Policies are coherently identified and presented by Councils, with most putting a great emphasis on whistleblowing procedures which could prove key to mitigating modern slavery. Crucially, most Statements identify some due diligence measures in relation to modern slavery. Most Councils take measures to ensure their suppliers are committed to combating abuses.

One of the formal reporting requirements stipulates that a Statement needs to be signed by a person of senior status within the organisation. The Government Guidance on Transparency in Supply Chains indicates that this requirement exists to ensure a “senior level accountability, leadership and responsibility for modern slavery and [to give it] the serious attention it deserves” (p. 13). With over half of all Statements published by Local Authorities being signed by members at senior level of responsibility within the Councils, we can hope that the issue of modern slavery will remain under constant consideration and review by Councils.

As always, there remains room for improvements. It is imperative that Councils’ ensure that their statements are easily available. There are discrepancies as to where statements are being published – some may be found under information about the Council, or for residents, or for businesses. BHRE suggest that Councils follow the legislation, where s.54(7)(b) states that a link to a Statement should be provided in a prominent place of the Council’s website’s homepage. Where a Council has committed to creating a statement, put in the time and effort to create it, if the statement cannot be found or accessed then it does not have the necessary and intended impact.

“In the case of local authorities, making the statement easily accessible should be not for academics or governmental officials to access, but for the members of the public so that they are able to see what their local council is doing towards eradicating human rights violations and prevent being part of abusive supply chains.” [UK Modern Slavery Act Transparency in Supply Chains: Reporting by Local Authorities, March 2018, p.4]

Unfortunately, most Councils display a degree of naivety where they declare a lack of modern slavery, or even a lack of such risks, in their supply chains, more often than not, based on the fact that they procure locally and from within the UK. The reality is that the supply chains of goods purchased and services contracted, spread wider than imaginable. There is no question that some, if not most, Councils sub-contract services such as cleaning or purchase electrical goods – both of which have been identified as being at a high risk of modern slavery.

We understand that the limited resources available to Councils mean that their ability to analyse and report on their supply chains is also constrained. Full supply chain mapping is a feat for a large business and may not be immediately feasible for a Council. Still, Councils should not feel discouraged. Systematic work with a direct focus on high-risk areas should allow for a thorough analysis.

“The first step within the due diligence process should be to identify potential risks within the supply chain, and prioritise action over them. It is not possible to map all supply chains and identify all risks at once. Local authorities are faced with the pressing challenge managing diminishing resources to address increasing local needs.” [UK Modern Slavery Act Transparency in Supply Chains: Reporting by Local Authorities, March 2018, p.9]

We encourage collaborations between Councils, as well as with external third parties, such as NGOs and government departments including the Anti-Slavery Commissioner, which will prove instrumental in ensuring a continued investigation into transparency in the supply chains. The pooling of resources of neighbouring Councils should allow for more detailed analysis of risks of exploitation, especially if the Councils already collaborate in other areas.

Local authorities are demonstrating commitment and leadership towards combating modern slavery reporting under the MSA when they are not required to. They need more guidance and support to continue to drive this process. We hope our report support those Councils who have already taken this step providing them with useful pointers as to how they can improve their analysis and reporting techniques and encourages more Councils to undertake the challenge of producing a Statement.

For more information, please see the report here.

Anna is Research intern at the BHRE and project manager on the joint LUPC-BHRE Modern Slavery Project. For her profile please follow this link  

Child labour: The shadow behind your sparkling makeup

 Photocredit:  Flickr

Photocredit: Flickr

By Marisol Bernal Corredor

Indian authorities have announced that they will begin the process of legalization mica mines in Eastern India, after a series of investigations that revealed the deaths of children working in these illegal mines. 

Mica is a mineral found mainly in India which helps to brighten the tone of colour pigments, making it indispensable in achieving the shine that we see in makeup products and car paints today. This mineral is known for being environmentally friendly, but has a worrying estimated presence of around 20,000 child workers in mica mines in India. A boom for natural products has made the cosmetic industry grow its interest in this mineral, but it is important for one to question, at whose expense do we develop these organic and natural products?

Children responsible for collecting mica

An investigation by Thomson Reuters Foundation found children from five years old to be working in mines, and exposed to high risks with the possibility of death. Most mica mining in India is illegal, but it is the only income that some families see. Therefore, many must hide the truth of their reality for fear of being discovered and being left without any livelihood. Mica production has been developed by taking advantage of the poorest in areas where the only possible source of income is mining. As well as the adults, children are made vulnerable to the risks of illegal mining, with most working long days with low incomes, and permanent absences from school.

The transformational power of multinational corporations

The global supply chain in the cosmetic industry is complex -  most of the products originate from illegal mines, where they are sold to agents in town. They are then further vended to intermediaries near trading centres before being sold to exporters. The intermediaries do not check whether mica comes from legal or illegal mines, which then leads multinational companies to incorporate into their products, illegally obtained mica, as the Thomson Router Foundation showed.

Multinational corporations need to understand the importance of their role in society, especially in developing countries. Transparency in global supply chains will help to identify human rights abuses and in this way to find a system to tackle them. Multinational corporations can and should help the development of societies in which they reside.

With regard to India, the biggest responsibility should be taken by the Government, which has delayed the legalisation and regulation of mica mining. However, impact that businesses have in society should in no way be disregarded. Initiatives like ‘Child Friendly Villages’ lead by the Non-governmental Organisation Bachpan Bachao Andolan -  which seeks to ensure that children go to school instead of working -  are important and will remain in time as long as multinational corporations are involved in them. Companies must put all their efforts into developing and enforcing a policy to increase transparency in their supply chain and try to address the problem, becoming part of the solution rather than drivers of the problem. 

Time for legalisation

The Indian government announced that it would begin the legalisation of mica mining, which will allow for regulation of the sector and create better conditions to help eradicate child labour within the sector. The authorities will first sell the dumps of scrap mica and then auction off old mica mines and other reserves for mining, DNA India has said.

The need to legalise mica mining has always pressing. It is its illegal nature the major cause which puts at risk the human rights of so many all over the world. However, activists and analysts warn that something more is needed than legalisation to end child labour. The Guardian explains that high poverty levels in mica mining areas mean that families cannot afford to send children to school, so they will be forced to continue working. Therefore it is necessary for adults to earn fair wages and to work in decent conditions, in order to improve their lives.

The Indian government’s efforts to legalise mica mining are significant, but it is now time for the government to also demonstrate its commitment and ability to enforce its laws by providing better working conditions. It should therefore implement appropriate regulation for the sector as well as effective protection for children. The state duty to protect human rights cannot be forgotten.

 

Marisol Bernal Corredor is an Intern at the Business, Human Rights and the Environment Research Group (www.bhre.org). She is a Colombian lawyer and was formerly diplomatic assistant to the Colombian Consulate in Aruba.  

New regulation regarding work permits for foreigners in Turkey

 Photo credıt:  pıxabay

Photo credıt: pıxabay

Turkey has the one of the biggest textile and garment industries around the world, due to the workforces’ attractive ability to manufacture products in short time periods. Almost every week the newest apparels are being displayed in shop windows, thus increasing already excessive consumer demand. In Turkey, businesses usually operate using subcontracts with small factories in order to fulfil retailer requests. Much of the time, these factories might be unregistered and even illegal sweatshops. Moreover, because suppliers sign series’ of subcontracts with these factories, retailers are often oblivious as to who the original producers are. With such lack of monitoring and inspection by the government and brands themselves, hazardous working conditions and the use of child labour in these factories is the harsh reality.

Over the last three years, the huge influx of Syrian refugees has had a dramatic effect on the sector.  After the 2011 Syrian Civil War, many people migrated to neighbouring countries, and where possible, to Europe. However, the subsequent deal between Turkey and the EU which banned Syrians from entering some of the European countries has found many stuck mainly in Greece and Turkey, separated from their families and alone.

What is the status of Syrian refugees?

Turkey is hosting nearly three million Syrians according to statistics of the Ministry of Interior. Almost half are children, making Turkey the largest hosting country in the world. After the massive influx in 2011, Turkish legislation was failing to acknowledge the basic rights of the Syrian migrants due to the country’s reservation on the 1951 Refugee Convention. This convention ensures rights and protection to the refugees in the country they settled. However, due to Turkey’s reservation, only EU citizens could possess refugee status, others will be accepted as foreigners which is a status ensures much more limited rights. As a result, Syrian people could not claim any rights or protection according to that convention. Since 2011, the government has enacted a series of new laws regarding their status and rights in time gradually, for example, last year Law No. 6735 International Labour Force has been adopted.

One of the first benefits accessed by Syrian migrants was the Governments introduction of the Law on International Protection and Foreigners which enables them to apply for work permits, and access education and health services, thus affording them some temporary protection.

However, there was a delay in the enactment of the Regulation on Work Permits of Foreigners under Temporary Protection, no. 29594, therefore, illegal work became a necessary means for survival. Although, welcomed by Turkish employers within the textile industry, the absence of regulatory authority placed Syrian migrants in a vulnerable state; forced to accept lower wages and longer hours of work. Even the employment of children was being favoured over employment of legal Turkish citizens.  

Issuing work permits to Syrians

Before applying for a work permit, Syrian migrants must first, under Regulation on Work Permits of Foreigners under Temporary Protection, no. 29594, apply for temporary protection. This process alone can take up to several months. Human Rights Watch have conducted interviews with Syrian refugees which a few people stated that all this time period of waiting can be reduced in exchange for money illegally. Furthermore, refugees can only apply for work permits after six months of settling into a certain area which they want to work. Also, many Syrians cannot speak Turkish and a shortage of translators in the government offices made practical the regulation requires that applications for work permits have to be completed by the applicant’s employer. Lastly, there is a quota which restricts the number of Syrians who can work, for example, out of every ten workers, only one can be of Syrian ethnicity. Statistics acquired by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security shows that over 4,000 work permits were granted to Syrians in 2015 just over 5,000 in the first half of 2016. Still considering the number of refugees living in the country, it falls short for meeting the need for sustaining decent and legal labour standards to Syrians in the country.     

New Law No. 6735 International Labour Force

The new law no. 6735 came into force in the second half of 2016 and rescinded the old one. This law covers more people as it is for foreigners in general. Syrian refugees under temporary protection are also bound by this law.   

This law is applicable to a number of different categories. These include those who wish to work in Turkey; currently work in Turkey; applicants for occupational retraining; interns, or temporary cross-border service providers in Turkey. The Ministry of Labour and Social Security will determine international workforce policies and work permits will be granted to applicants accordingly. Furthermore, for professional positions within sectors such as education and health, prior authorisation must be granted by the related ministry.

Another innovation regarding work permits, a new card called ‘’turquoise card’’ will be given to foreigners according to their education level, professional experience, their contribution to science and technology, its business effect to the country’s economy and employment rate. In this way, card holders can benefit from indefinite working rights after three years - also dependants such as spouses and children may possess residency permits.

However, similarly with the Law no. 29594, Syrian refugees under temporary protection can only apply after six months of applying for that status.

Also with the new law, during an inspection of competent authority, if a non-permit holder is found within the workplace, he or she will be subjected to a penalty and also reported to the Ministry of Interior to begin the deportation process. This punishment for refugees is an unfair and excessive reaction as it is the employers who leave them with no option but to work without the permits – instead they only face a fine.

Unfortunately, current regulations are insufficient in prevent human rights abuses because government officials are inconsistent in carrying out inspections to find corrupt employers, and sometimes do not even attempt to investigate. Firstly, if Syrians begin to receive minimum living wage in practice, among many other things, this would reduce issues like child labour. Sadly, it looks like there is a long way to ensure decent life standards to Syrian refugees.      

 

Ozge Okay- She is a LL.M candidate in the University of Greenwich on International and Commercial Law also doing an internship in Business, Human Rights and the Environment Research Group.