UK construction industry tackles modern slavery

UK contractor Willmott Dixon will spearhead a major anti-slavery drive in the construction sector launched by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and a pan-industry alliance.

Product manufacturer Saint-Gobain and developer Westfield will join the contractor on the initiative to shape guidance for addressing modern slavery and complying with the UK Modern Slavery Act.

Anti-slavery protesters outside the UK Parliament in 2015 (

Recent figures released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimate there are 40 million people trapped in modern slavery around the world. UK Prime Minister Theresa May described it as "the greatest human rights issue in the world today".

The construction initiative follows the model of retail industry alliance Stronger Together’s consumer goods programme, launched in October 2013, which is sponsored by nine major UK supermarkets.

That programme combines interactive training workshops and practical resources. Included in the resources is an in-depth good practice toolkit and a short film, ‘Concrete’, based on a true story, which highlights the risks of modern slavery within the UK construction industry. Workshops can be booked and resources downloaded for free here.

Rick Willmott, chief executive at Willmott Dixon, said: "We take our responsibility for tackling modern slavery very seriously and that includes taking a collaborative approach with our industry peers."

Chris Blythe OBE, chief executive of the CIOB, said: "No project is too big or too small to be at the risk of modern slavery and labour exploitation. The commitment shown by these companies demonstrates an enlightened approach and makes good business sense.

"The industry improves the quality of life for those who use our structures but the process of construction must also protect the wellbeing of those who make it happen, wherever they are in the supply chain and whatever their background. We should not accept anything less and we must work together to achieve it."

Keith Whitmore, head of design and construction at Westfield UK & Europe, said: "We are committed to help ensure we eradicate modern slavery in the industry and in the UK through educational initiatives."

Jantine Werdmüller von Elgg, global programme lead for Stronger Together said: "We welcome the leadership of the project sponsors, including Saint-Gobain, Westfield and Willmott Dixon, to take this key step on the journey to reduce modern slavery in the construction sector.

"Fundamental to our approach is collaboration and we encourage every business within the industry to join the programme and take advantage of the free resources, training workshops and the opportunity to discuss the challenges and best practice involved in addressing this issue in a safe space."

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