Leading businesses sign up to help end the scandal of modern slavery after Evening Standard's call to action

Naomi Ackerman
Ordeal: Abigail, whose horrifying story of sex slavery was highlighted by the Standard

Leading international and UK corporations today backed the Standard’s battle against modern slavery.

Unilever, Intel, Waitrose, Marks and Spencer and law firms Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Norton Rose Fulbright were among the businesses that joined the City of London Corporation and the Confederation of British Industry in signing up to the ES Stop Slavery Pledge.

The pledge, advocated by former Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, emphasises the importance of corporations eradicating slavery from supply chains.

Over the past two months this paper’s investigation has exposed the scale of the crime in London, from sex trafficking to those forced to work in car washes and on building sites.

Catherine McGuinness, policy chairman at the City of London Corporation, said: “Tackling human trafficking is not solely an issue for the police. Businesses, local authorities, charities, funders and voluntary organisations all have an important role to play.

“The City of London Corporation and City Bridge Trust, our charitable arm, are fully committed to stamping out modern slavery in London.”

The Thomson Reuters Foundation, an initial campaign supporter, awarded its 2017 Stop Slavery Award to Intel for its work to tackle the problem.

Jackie Sturm, Intel’s global supply management general manager, told the Standard: “We are pleased to sign the Evening Standard pledge.

“We are proud of our efforts to address this serious issue, but we recognise eradicating forced labour requires collective commitment.”

Grant Thornton’s UK chief executive, Sacha Romanovitch, said the accounting and consulting giant supported the paper’s pledge because tackling modern slavery is “a key foundation to helping shape a vibrant economy where everyone can thrive”.

The company joined law firms in highlighting its work advising international companies how best to avoid suppliers using slaves.

This year, Norton Rose Fulbright hosted the Second Global Modern Slavery and Supply Chain Summit.

Global chair Stephen Parish said: “As a global law firm, we recognise our role in disseminating human rights best practice.

“We are committed to building capacity in our clients’ organisations as well as continuing to strengthen our own systems with the sole goal in mind — to help substantially change the plight of human beings affected by modern slavery across the world.”

British businesses lending support to the campaign include M&S, which this year was ranked first in the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark for Food and Fashion, and London-based Neal’s Yard Remedies. It is the first British brand to achieve “For Life” corporate social responsibility accreditation from Ecocert, which assesses employment conditions across companies.

Louise Nicholls, head of human rights at M&S, said: “There is no place for modern slavery in any business. However, there’s more to do and we applaud the Evening Standard for campaigning on the subject.”

Businesses that signed the pledge

Leading firms saying no to slavery

  • Waitrose
  • Linklaters
  • Blackstone
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise
  • Hogan Lovells
  • Thomson Reuters
  • CBI
  • Neal's Yard Remedies
  • Chime
  • Wates
  • Marks and Spencer
  • City of London Corporation
  • Grant Thornton,
  • Omnia
  • Subway
  • Sport for Freedom
  • Clifford Chance
  • The Co Operative Group
  • Intel
  • ITN
  • Lidl
  • Unilever
  • Norton Rose Fulbright

Statements from firms that signed our pledge

Unilever CEO, Paul Polman, said: “One of the consequences of the many interrelated challenges we face today - like climate change, inequality, poverty and conflict – is that millions of people are being forced to flee their homes in search of a better future. Unfortunately, many of these fall prey to human trafficking, some forced into slavery as sex workers, child soldiers or as domestic workers or labourers in many sectors. Modern slavery has become one of the greatest scourges of our time.

“Business indeed has a responsibility to act. Firstly, by taking the necessary steps to eradicate slavery in all of its forms within its supply chains. And second, and crucially by accelerating efforts to tackle the root causes that drive poverty within these communities.”

Waitrose Head of Sustainability and Responsible Sourcing, Tor Harris, said: “We fully support the Evening Standard shining a light on this important issue. We believe collaboration and raising awareness are key to tackling modern slavery… As members of the Ethical Trading Initiative we join with other companies, unions and NGOs to improve conditions in global supply chains.

“We congratulate the Evening Standard on joining businesses, Governments, charities and organisations to continue supporting such crucial work.”

​CBI Managing Director for People and Skills, Neil Carberry, said: “Modern slavery must be eradicated. For businesses, taking practical steps to ensure that exploitation does not happen in the supply chain is the right thing to do. It also ensures that firms can have a loud voice in setting processes and standards tailored to their sector’s unique risk factors, which should lead to faster progress.

“Firms that demonstrate fairness and promote good governance through their supply chains also tend to perform better, contributing to a more prosperous society.”

Clifford Chance LLP Managing Partner Matthew Layton said: “Clifford Chance is proud to support the Evening Standard campaign.

“We are committed to taking steps to ensure that all forms of slavery and human trafficking do not occur in our business or in our supply chain, and we regularly advise our clients on the management of human rights risks arising in relation to their business."

Lidl said: “At Lidl UK, we operate with a fundamental respect for the rights of the people we interact with; whether they be our own direct employees, contract workers or people employed throughout our supply chains.

“As an active member of Stronger Together, we require all of our UK suppliers to have attended dedicated training, to identify and mitigate the risk of modern slavery in their business and to provide evidence of such training upon request, and hope to have 100% of our suppliers trained by the end of 2017.”

Chime Communications Group Managing Director Stephanie Brimacombe said: “Once again the Evening Standard is to be congratulated for leading this important campaign. Slaves On Our Streets sent an important message, modern slavery and human trafficking in this great city, will not be tolerated. We are proud to stand alongside the newspaper as it now challenges business to do its part.

“Our helpline provides a secure way for employees to report any suspicions of forced labour or trafficking activities.”

​Wates Construction's acting chief executive David Allen said: “The Wates Group is proud to support the Evening Standard’s Stop Slavery Campaign. We believe slavery has no place in the modern world and we take a zero-tolerance approach. We are committed to ensuring there is no modern slavery in any part of our business or supply chain, and we are implementing and enforcing effective systems and controls to enforce our approach, extending to our own employees and the thousands more employed in our supply chains, including sub-contractors, suppliers and labour agencies.

“We are training our staff to fully understand of the risks of modern slavery, and have broadened the scope of our whistle-blowing procedures to ensure that people can raise any potential issues in confidence. As one of the UK’s leading family-owned construction, property services and development companies, our reputation is based on upholding our strong ethical values and acting with integrity in all our business relationships.”

Grant Thornton’s UK chief executive, Sacha Romanovitch, said: “At Grant Thornton we see tackling modern slavery as a key foundation to helping shape a vibrant economy where everyone can thrive. As a firm we understand that collaborating and sharing knowledge is the only way that we will be able to tackle this issue head on. We have been working with our clients to provide support on this matter, both locally and globally, and have been strengthening the impact we can make by working with government agencies to deepen our knowledge on the topic.

“Ensuring we have trust and integrity in our markets is a key priority for us and we are currently working towards developing transparency in our supply chains. We are educating our people to ensure they are aware of the extent of this problem and empowering them to join in our journey by keeping them updated on our progress.”