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Church-backed initiative prompts hotels group to tackle modern slavery in its supply chain

16 April 2021

ALAMY

An InterContinental Hotel in Shanghai, China, in 2018

An InterContinental Hotel in Shanghai, China, in 2018

AN INITIATIVE that calls on investors to search for victims of modern slavery in corporate supply chains has led one international hospitality group to tackle a problem in its network.

The Find It, Fix It, Prevent It scheme, which was launched in 2019 by CCLA (News, 15 November 2019), a fund manager with billions of pounds’ worth of charity, church, and local-authority assets under management, encouraged 13 of the largest listed hospitality companies to examine their supply chains.

One, the British-based InterContinental Hotels Group, which operates almost 6000 hotels in 100 countries, found concerns among migrant workers in Oman, including recruitment journeys, payment of fees, access to passports and identity documents, living and working conditions, and fair rates of pay.

A second company also identified areas of concern, and is being strongly encouraged to investigate.

CCLA’s chief executive, Peter Hugh Smith, said: “We applaud the fact that InterContinental Hotels Group has looked for [modern slavery] 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.”

The other groups involved were: Carnival, Compass Group, Domino’s Pizza Group, EI Group, Greggs, J. D. Wetherspoon, Marston’s, Mitchells & Butlers, Restaurant Group, SSP Group, TUI Group, and Whitbread.

The findings are disclosed in CCLA’s first annual report on the scheme, published on Monday. It says that the programme is “striking a chord” with investors who want to become involved in corporate-engagement programmes.

The 13 original members of the Investor engagement group included the Church of England Pensions Board and the Church Commissioners, the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church, and the Church Investors Group, but the project is now backed by 56 investors with assets exceeding £7 trillion. The CCLA estimates that about 25 million people are thought to be victims of modern slavery, and describes the problem as “clearly pervasive and global”.

Mr Hugh Smith continued: “It is our ambition that, by this stage next year, 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.”

A recent anonymous survey of leading UK brands found that more than three-quarters thought it likely that modern slavery occurred in their supply chains. Later this year, CCLA hopes to expand its engagement programme to the construction and materials sector, which is believed to be the sector with the second highest risk of forced labour.

The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton, said: “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.”

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