Civil engineering firm VGC Group, in Ruislip, has become the first UK labour supply company to achieve the new anti-slavery Ethical Labour Sourcing Standard (BES 6002: 2017).
Cavan man Sean Fitzpatrick’s firm is the first company in the rail sector, and one of just three companies overall, to have achieved the standard. The company has been involved for several years in developing the new standard, as part of its ethos of driving fairness and ethics in the construction and rail industry.
The audit report said: “As one of the largest labour and staff suppliers to the UK’s construction and rail companies; and as a company that undertakes rail and construction contracts, VGC clearly has robust governance procedures in place.
“VGC has clearly demonstrated that it operates at a level well above the minimum requirements of the ELS. The senior managers interviewed clearly showed a personal commitment to the eradication of Modern Slavery and understood how their actions influenced wider behaviours and decisions in the business. Particularly strong areas include the company structure and management policies. There is a strong underlying culture of organisational responsibility and a genuine concern for the welfare of others at a senior management level.
“In line with their business strategy for 2018 and beyond, VGC has put in place an ambitious action plan to address potential risks of labour exploitation.”
Ethical labour sourcing is a fundamental part of the VGC Group culture, from its mission statement and corporate objectives through to its processes and commitment to sustainable business practices.
Ciara Pryce, group services director, said: “VGC has an ethical approach to how we treat our people and deliver our activities. It is a culture that is embedded in the fabric of the organisation. We will continue to build on this foundation and raise the bar in the support, development and protection of our people using the ELS to benchmark, monitor and improve.”
Worldwide some 45.8 million people are in some form of slavery in 167 countries, including around 11,700 in the UK, according to the Global Slavery Index. The UK’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act sets a benchmark for ethical business practice in the sourcing of labour.
The Ethical Labour Standard was created to recognise those who wish to seek third-party assurance of their practices. ELS verification provides a framework for organisations to verify their systems and processes in relation to the Modern Slavery Act. It also provides a maturity pathway to make continuous improvements.
The standard is primarily intended for those organisations that work in the UK, while recognising these connected supply chains are often global.