Sodexo, together with its four largest strategic suppliers - Brakes, Bunzl Catering & Hospitality Division, Blue Arrow and Mi Hub Ltd trading as Alexandra - has formed a Modern Slavery Strategic Supplier Forum.

The newly formed group will meet bi-annually to highlight risks, share best practice and agree common commitments to tackle modern slavery within their respective organisations.

Modern slavery can take many different forms including forced labour and servitude. It is estimated that at any given time over 40 million people worldwide are in modern slavery and the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem.

In the UK and Ireland, Sodexo is responsible for procuring over £600m worth of goods and services across food, consumables and disposables, uniform and specialist clothing as well as temporary agency staff.  At a global level, this sum exceeds £18bn from a supply chain that connects Sodexo to over 150,000 businesses.  

With such a diverse mix of suppliers, it is imperative that Sodexo works with its procurement partners to take positive action to manage, mitigate and eliminate the risk of modern slavery and labour exploitation across the whole supply chain.

In the UK and Ireland, by working with its four largest suppliers, each with an established corporate responsibility policy in relation to modern slavery, Sodexo aims to draw together their common experiences and identify ways of working together to tackle some of the underlying issues of modern slavery within both local and global supply chains.

The first Forum meeting was held virtually on Tuesday, 27 April where each participating organisation presented their current activity to combat modern slavery and the principles and standards that their suppliers of goods and services are expected to adhere to. Over the next six months, the Forum members have agreed to work together on joint communications initiatives to highlight existing whistleblowing policies and procedures to ensure all employees are comfortable to report in confidence any issue that is unethical, illegal or unsafe.

The Forum will also investigate opportunities to work with the Ethical Trading Initiative, an independent organisation on sustainable procurement, to create joint projects to tackle modern slavery along the supply chain.

And it will collaborate with the Slave Free Alliance - a social enterprise and membership initiative launched by anti-slavery charity Hope for Justice.

Patrick Forbes, Sodexo’s Head of Supply Management, UK & Ireland said: 
“Sodexo is a global business with a significant supply chain that connects us with more than 4,800 businesses in the UK and Ireland alone. Over the past 18 months we have worked to better understand modern slavery in our global and domestic markets so we can equip our teams to identify risks within our supply chains and to question their suppliers more rigorously on this subject.   

This Strategic Supplier Forum offers an opportunity for the wider supply chain to work together to address this abhorrent crime and we look forward to collaborating with our partners.

Justin Turquet, Bunzl Catering & Hospitality Division’s Head of Sustainability, said:
“Modern slavery is a global issue and requires global action. As an international business, Bunzl Catering & Hospitality Division is wholly committed to eliminating modern slavery practices and respecting human rights across both our own operations and the supply chain.

We are delighted to be working with Sodexo and their partners as part of the Modern Slavery Supplier Forum to ensure we are sharing best practice and established programmes that mitigate the risks of modern slavery in the supply chain.

Stuart Smith, Brakes’ Director of Merchandising, added:
“Our CSR goal is very clear – we expect fair treatment for all and we will not stand for modern slavery.  Our duty is to ensure that our products are not only sourced responsibly, but also ethically. We have put measures in place to ensure strict standards across our supply chain. 

We are delighted to be joining this coalition of like-minded businesses to stand up for the rights of workers across the globe.  In forming the Modern Slavery Supplier Forum, the companies involved have clearly signalled that they will not stand for these practices and we passionately hope that others will join us in condemning them as completely unacceptable.

Rebecca Jones, Global Sales Director at Alexandra, concluded: “We are delighted to be working with Sodexo on this strategic supplier initiative to tackle modern slavery. We are very proud of what Alexandra, part of the Mi Hub Group, have achieved over many years as members of the Ethical Trading Initiative.

We are committed to supporting our local and global supply chains to create a fair and safe working environment for all employees. We constantly strive, through our work on the ground and through membership of key organisations like the Slave Free Alliance, to further improve working conditions and uphold human rights for all.

Sodexo is a signatory to the UN Global Compact and respects human rights, including the right of people to be free from involuntary or forced labour as set forth in the International Bill of Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

As part of its Social Impact Pledge for 2021, Sodexo UK and Ireland re-affirmed its commitment to end modern slavery through comprehensive policies, better working practices and improved contracts.

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