CCLA launched annual report detailing progress on initiative to combat modern slavery in supply chains

CCLA Investment Management, a specialist manager for charities, churches and local authorities has the annual report for the first year of its Find It, Fix It, Prevent It programme which brings the investment community together with academics and NGOs to address modern slavery in supply chains.

Launched by CCLA at the end of 2019, Find It, Fix It, Prevent It seeks to increase the effectiveness of corporate action against modern slavery. As modern slavery is likely to exist in the supply chain of nearly every business, the initiative is underpinned by the belief that the only test of companies’ efforts is whether they have found modern slavery in their supply chain and, once identified, whether they have taken steps to support the provision of remedy to victims. Initially the programme has focused on the hospitality sector, with 16 investors leading engagement with 13 of the largest UK-listed hospitality firms.
 
The investor engagement group congratulates InterContinental Hotels Group that - independently of the Find It, Fix It, Prevent It initiative - searched for, found and is working to address instances of forced labour issues in its operations in Oman and reported on this in their Modern Slavery Statement. Concerns were identified around its migrant workers and the group took steps to interview a sub-set of these workers in a pilot project. The interview process which revealed modern slavery issues covered a range of topics including their recruitment journeys and if fees were paid, whether workers had access to passports and identity documents, their living and working conditions and whether they were being fairly remunerated for their work. A further hospitality company that was part of the investor engagement programme also identified areas of concern and is being strongly encouraged to investigate.

Peter Hugh Smith, CCLA’s Chief Executive, says: “While we abhor modern slavery, we applaud the fact that InterContinental Hotels Group has looked for it and found it and we encourage them to take steps to address and provide remedy to the victims. Given the pervasiveness of modern slavery, we are frankly surprised that the other companies involved in the Find It, Fix It, Prevent It engagement have not found it and urge them to deepen their investigations because it is most likely there.”

Approximately 25 million people, around the entire population of Australia, are thought to be victims of forced labour. When the Ashbridge Hult business school anonymously surveyed leading brands in the UK, 77 per cent acknowledged that they thought it likely modern slavery occurred in their supply chains.
 
Dame Sara Thornton, The UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, says:
“No large supply chain is safe from the risk of modern slavery, but it thrives in environments where there is weak governance, poor oversight and failure to align with international human rights standards. Businesses must do more to root out the causes of exploitation and protect the most vulnerable workers in their supply chains. Investors have a pivotal role to play in ensuring that they do this.

“The Find it Fix it Prevent it initiative is an excellent example of collaborative investor action. I hope that this kind of activity becomes the norm in coming years.”

With the first year of the Find It, Fix It, Prevent It programme striking a chord with investors, there has been demand from more investors to become involved in corporate engagement programmes. This year, Find It, Fix It, Prevent It will see engagement with companies broaden from the hospitality sector to include the construction and materials sector with plans to commence engagement with targeted companies from the third quarter. According to KnowTheChain, the construction sector is the second highest risk sector for forced labour and employs around 7 per cent of the global workforce.

Fiona Reynolds, Chief Executive Officer, PRI, says: “The investment community has a key role to play in the fight against modern slavery. Investors have leverage over the companies that they invest in and they need to use it to encourage them to identify and eradicate modern slavery. We call upon more investors to support Find It, Fix It, Prevent It as it expands to focus on more sectors.” 
 
Hugh Smith says: “We are encouraged that one hospitality group has found modern slavery, but it is our ambition that by this stage next year that the majority of companies with whom we engage will have found areas of concern following thorough investigations. As investors in these companies, it is our moral duty to press companies we invest in to do their utmost to ensure their workers, and workers in their supply chains, enjoy fair conditions free from all forms of modern slavery.”
 
CCLA has a long history of involvement in projects to protect human rights and well-being. Initiatives over the last ten years include spearheading Find It, Fix It, Prevent It, leading an initiative to encourage global brands in the Gulf region to safeguard rights of migrant workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, encouraging hoteliers to protect against Child Sex Trafficking, promoting the Employer Pays Principle, and, alongside the Church Investors Group, delivering a market wide engagement programme promoting better action on slavery in supply chains.