This week , the event industry HR group ( drawn from across the AEO / AEV/ ESSA) invited me to give a presentation on human rights and modern slavery issues. My experience of working in the events sector began over 10 years ago, when I served on the London mirror committee developing ISO20121 and supported the implementation of a global sustainability management system, including developing their human rights policy and due diligence procedures for a key Event organiser.
Google ‘ human rights and events sector’ and pretty much nothing will come up. This is surprising as its reported that the UK events sector is now work over £39 billion! The AEV reports that the impact of the events sector on the UK economy is £11 billion. There are likely to be a number of reasons for this dearth of information but it’s likely that the sector as a whole is still in its infancy in considering these issues. Certainly, in our meeting the majority of participants had not heard of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights or human rights mapping.
What’s the fuss about?
There is a growing concern on how business impacts on human rights and contributes to modern slavery in supply chains. Modern slavery is a growing concern with an estimated 45.8 people in some form of modern slavery across 167 countries. The International Labour Organisation estimates that
that 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are children while women dn girls account for 70% of the victims. These figures highlight that its very likely that at some point business will have modern slavery issues in their supply chains.
Modern slavery is a term that captures a range of human rights issues, including forced labour bonded labour human trafficking and forced labour.
The impact of these concerns has led to a number of countries globally adopting legislation to hold business accountable for their actions by requiring them to report on the steps they are taking to address these issues. Legislation like the UK Modern Slavery Act which requires business with a turnover of £36 million or about to produce an annual statement on the steps they are taking to tackle modern slavery is now being implemented in globally with countries such as Australia adopting a Modern Slavery Act. The recent Child Labour Due Diligence Law in the Netherlands goes further than the UK Modern Slavery Act in its reporting requirements, introducing mandatory due diligence reporting and penalties for non-compliance.
Whilst a number of event sector organisations are producing modern slavery statements the sector as a whole hasn’t come under the same scrutiny by NGOs as other sectors . The Global Governance FTSE 100 League Table sets out a league table for FTSE 100 companies ranking them on compliance and conformance with UK MSA and good practice in human rights. A number of companies in the events sector feature on the table.
What are the kind of human rights risks that the event sector will face?
Human rights abuses and modern slavery risk can arise from:
- Construction factitive
- Facilities management
How is business responding?
A recent study on Canadian Business insights on Modern Slavery in Supply chains highlighted that less than a 1/3 of Companies surveyed are actively looking beyond their first tier of suppliers to address modern slavery risk. A similar finding from a survey we carried out with participants for the meeting revealed how little action is being taken to address modern slavery risk in their operations – as evidenced by the fact that majority of companies represented had not integrated modern slavery risk in their tenders.
Ardea International carried out some work with Olympia London last year to do ensure that their procurement framework and contracts incorporated measures to address modern slavery risk . A summary of actions taken can be read here: https://www.cips.org/en-GB/supply-management/opinion/2018/october/five-things-olympia-london-is-doing-to-tackle-slavery/
It is not surprising to see that they key challenges in implementing modern slavery statements and actions to address the risk come down to lack of expertise and lack of resource. These are the most common barriers cited in addressing modern slavery issues . The findings might also be a reflection of the low levels of training being undertaken on the issue. This is reflected by the finding too that no-one had received any sort of bespoke training on modern slavery within the organisations present at the workshop. It should be noted that whilst the term ‘human rights policy’ is used in the survey, most people interpreted this term to mean ‘modern slavery’ so the results should be interpreted with reference to modern slavery.
The events sector, like any other should be considering how it can address these issues more deliberately. In the first instance business should understand if it needs to comply with the act. Training is key and undertaking a gap analysis to benchmark the current policies and procedures that are in place and how these can be updated/ supplemented to address the issues.
We have created e-learning that is bespoke to the Events sector on business and human rights. It includes case studies, videos and quizzes. For anyone that is interested in downloading it, the link is here: https://www.ardeainternational.com/training-education/e-learning/business-and-human-rights-e-learning-series-events-sector/
If you are interested in the findings in this blog and want to find out more about how your business can tackle these issues or receive training contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org