‘”The real challenge with human rights and supply chain management is that many companies are not sure where it lies,” says Colleen Theron, lawyer and director of sustainability and CSR consultancy at CLT Envirolaw. “HR will say it’s for procurement to deal with, and procurement will say it’s all about costs. Unless you have a truly strategic procurement policy in place, it won’t tackle these issues. We need to look at human rights in a more integrated and sustainable way.”’
At the Finance Against Traffick conference in October 2013, Phil Rashidi from the Specialist Crimes and Operations unit spoke about a case where him and his colleagues busted a gang master operating in the UK and whose trafficked workers from Poland went around various different offices fixing printers. This wasn’t a high profile case attracting any special media attention – it’s your average trafficking story, lost amongst countless others and taking place right on our doorstep.
The reality is that one of these workers could have walked into your HR department to fix your office printer and you probably wouldn’t have noticed or even given the possibility of illicit goings-on any thought whatsoever. Many HR managers might say this does not fall within the realms of their responsibility or influence. However, perhaps particularly when HR functions are outsourced, there is a strong case for saying that these workers are part of your organisation’s extended workforce, and that there is a real role to be played by HR in helping to tackle business and human rights matters.
Wherever you stand, it is no longer about pioneering businesses showing they care, signing up to voluntary standards, and telling their various departments to vaguely acknowledge ethical and other non-financial risks which exist in their business operations. Regulation in this area is on the increase and potentially carries implications for a range of organisations.
To assist in raising awareness amongst HR professionals on growing compliance requirements around business and human rights, CLT envirolaw contributed to a piece by Katie Jacobs in HR Mag, entitled Should HR have responsibility for supply chain workers’ conditions?
Check out the summary of relevant legislation which we provided for the print version of the article here.