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Experience exchange: The UK Modern Slavery Act & Ethical Procurement

Thursday 23 March 2017

To help our Buyers find out more about ethical procurement, Stephanie Gibney, Ethical and Sustainability Manager at NHS Supply Chain set up a series of experience exchanges to talk about the work NHS Supply Chain is doing.

Whilst it doesn’t seem right to use the word ‘slavery’ in the 21st century shockingly it still exists and is a growing problem. “When I first started the experience exchanges back in 2015 the Global Slavery Index estimated there were 36 million people in the world living in modern slavery,” said Stephanie. “Now there are 45.8 million.”

In 2015 the UK government introduced the Modern Slavery Act. Amongst other things the Act places responsibility on businesses to help tackle this global problem by providing transparency in their supply chains. Large companies have to produce a slavery and human trafficking report each year. NHS Supply Chain has produced a customer communication on modern slavery for more information click here.

Another important part of the Modern Slavery Act is to raise awareness of the problem and the risks involved. This is where Stephanie comes in. She has already trained 70% of NHS Supply Chain buyers on the subject and is hoping to reach 100% this year.

Here are some of the points Stephanie talks to our Buyers about:

  • Drivers of forced labour and modern slavery:
    Globalisation, immigration, inconsistent international regulation of trade and labour markets, volatile consumer demand and competitive pressures
  • Business most at risk
    Agriculture, Extractive industries, Manufacturing, Telecomms, Service & hospitality

What is NHS Supply Chain doing?

NHS Supply Chain didn’t wait until 2015 to incorporate ethical procurement into their business values. “We have had a Supplier code of conduct since 2009,” added Stephanie.
Our code of contract has a forced labour provision including and in 2017 we will be enhancing it. A central part of our Ethical Procurement Strategy has been the introduction of Labour Standards Assurance System (LSAS).”

Back in 2012 NHS Supply Chain introduced the LSAS in collaboration with the Department of Health, to enhance the identification of issues, remediation and continuous improvement of labour standards management. This formed part of a pioneering approach to include ethical procurement considerations into the tender for surgical instruments and has provided a blueprint for other product areas.

The launch of NHS Supply Chain’s new surgical instruments framework highlights its strong commitment to ethical procurement. With an estimated 80-90% of surgical instruments being manufactured in Pakistan, NHS Supply Chain continues to support suppliers to meet LSAS contract conditions.

“We are committed to transparency and embedding ethical procurement, and have been working closely with our suppliers through the Labour Standards Assurance System. Our new surgical instruments framework supports and extends our work in this area and helps suppliers to further develop policies and processes to meet requirements in line with International Labour Organisation conventions and the UK Modern Slavery Act,” said Stephanie.

To find out more about the new surgical instruments framework click here.


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