Modern Slavery, Responsible Sourcing and Community Engagement have emerged as the issues on which greatest improvement is being made through leadership, learning and support across the construction industry in 2018 – according to a sector-wide survey of built-environment contracting organisations and supply-chain companies, undertaken by the Supply Chain Sustainability School

The School is clearly and consistently credited with having a significant positive impact on users tackling these key issues throughout the industry. In the survey, more than 4 in every 5 companies achieving an improved understanding of both modern slavery (82%) and responsible sourcing (81%) state that the School has helped them achieve these results. Some 2 out of 3 (66%) also attributed their increased levels of community engagement to assistance received from the School.

Dale Turner, Director of Procurement and Supply Chain at Skanska UK, said: “One of the current key challenges in our industry is providing greater transparency through the tiers of our supply chain. The School’s resources are having a positive effect on modern slavery knowledge and increasing the focus on continuous improvement in this area. It’s also really encouraging to see improvement in responsible sourcing.”

The impact of the School is also highlighted for the same priority issues by Anne Smales, Head of Procurement and Supply Chain, London South East, Bouygues UK: “The Supply Chain Sustainability School plays a key role in helping our supply chain to better understand major industry themes such as modern slavery and responsible sourcing, and as a Partner Member we are very pleased to support their work and continue to encourage our supply chain to use the plethora of great quality, free resources available.”

Along with modern slavery and responsible sourcing, community engagement was the other topic most flagged as being of interest and impact for the School.

In the case of Ground Control Ltd, who have attended many events through the School and been an active participant in leading initiatives, this proved an area of significant opportunity, explains Client Relationship Manager, Keith Buckle: “The School provided the perfect platform to discuss Community Engagement with one of our FM partners and as a result we are proud to say that we took steps to engage in, and subsequently became signatories to Ban The Box; a Business in the Community initiative which highlights how businesses can provide ex-offenders with the skills and employment opportunities that will help to turn their lives around.

“In a win-win for social and economic sustainability, supporting an initiative which hopefully may help to break the cycle of reoffending will also serve to provide our business with access to diverse, untapped talent.”

The survey deliberately explored some ‘must-try-harder’ topics, where responses confirmed the construction sector is generally slow or perhaps reluctant to address its responsibilities and seize opportunities. Nevertheless, the School’s impact was strongly in evidence here too.

Whilst fewer than 1 in 5 respondents (18%) reduced their water consumption, for instance, and engagement on air quality issues was even lower, with under 1 in 6 (15%) achieving improvements, in at least half the cases where progress was made, the School was said to have assisted.

The survey also revealed some discrepancies between the priorities of different sizes of businesses within the industry. Cutting Carbon appeared more of a focus for larger operations, for example, but Fairness, Inclusion & Respect (FIR) higher up the agenda for SMEs. The need to address any points of difference before they become sources of supply-chain disconnect will also help inform and bolster existing School programmes in these important areas.

Chair of the Supply Chain Sustainability School, Shaun McCarthy OBE said: “As well as providing a critical assessment of the positive impact of learning and support delivered by School itself, the survey also serves as something of a snapshot of the state of sustainability along the length of the entire construction supply chain. For all the undoubted progress made together, there remains much still to do and a long way to go to help build an industry fit for the future.”

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