Over the next few months we will see large commercial organisations publishing statements on how they prevent slavery or human trafficking. It doesn't yet have implications for public sector procurement, but should it?
The Modern Slavery Act came into force on 29th October 2015. One of its provisions is to require those organisations with turnover of at least £36 million, and with operations in the UK, to publish a “slavery and human trafficking statement”. The statement must be approved and signed by a director, member or partner of the organisation and include ‘the steps the organisation has taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of its supply chains, and in any part of its own business’. Whilst the provision places no specific obligations on the public sector, shouldn’t an organisation’s compliance be a consideration in procurement?
Organisations need to publish their statements as soon as reasonably practical after the end of their financial year; but a six-month lead in is seen as satisfactory. We should therefore begin to see these appearing summer / autumn 2016.
And where they don’t publish? Potentially the Secretary of State may seek an injunction through the High Court requiring the organisation to comply. But in practice damage to reputation and poor publicity are seen as the disincentives. Maybe in time the impact on procurement decisions will also be a driving factor.
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