Hotelier coalition calls on industry to make modern slavery top priority

A coalition of hospitality firms with a collective annual turnover of more than £14bn is calling on the industry to drive change in supply chains by treating modern slavery as a critical corporate responsibility.

The Shiva Foundation, a corporate body of Shiva Hotels, convened hoteliers including Hilton, WGC and Bespoke Hotels to form the Stop Slavery Hotel Industry Network in 2016. The Network, members of which are involved with 6,000 properties and almost a quarter of a million staff members across 100 countries, has called on the wider industry to do more to tackle modern slavery in a new report released on Friday (9 March).

The report notes that there are approximately 115,000 human trafficking victims within the hospitality sector in Europe, of which 93,500 are sexually exploited. Around 7,000 workers are labour exploitation victims working in the industry.

The Shiva Foundation’s report has issued a call to arms for hoteliers to collaborate and use collective purchasing power to reward suppliers that have eradicated or show no signs of human rights abuses within their operations.

“With more than one in 10 people involved in hotels and hospitality around the world, the sector has the opportunity to take a strong stand on modern slavery,” Shiva Foundation’s director Meenal Sachdev said.

“To truly tackle the issues, we also need wider action from government, industry bodies, unions, civil society and customers. Together, we can provide freedom and equality to the many millions currently suffering from this abuse.”

Morality and hospitality

As well as calling on other hoteliers to join the network, the report recommends that firms be bolder in showcasing commitments to tackling modern slavery. Shiva Hotels, for example, displays modern slavery action plans in the lobbies of its hotels. The report also calls on all companies in the industry, regardless of size, to publish a modern slavery statement.

Last year, Shiva Hotels rolled-out an “industry-leading” anti-slavery programme across five of its properties, including the Kingsway Hall hotel in Covent Garden and the Hilton London at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5.

At a policy level, the report calls for governments to bring key stakeholders together to accelerate action, while labour market regulators should also raise ambitions.

The UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland added: “Taking action on modern slavery and human trafficking is not just a moral obligation – it makes good business sense. Forced labour in company operations or supply chains has the potential to disrupt business, weaken investor confidence and cause significant brand damage.”

“The hotel and hospitality sector has the opportunity to show real leadership and strength in tackling modern slavery, but there is still a way to go to ensure a comprehensive and consistent response. I urge all business leaders join this fight, so we can ensure that addressing slavery becomes the norm, rather than the exception.”

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that human trafficking is the third-largest illicit moneymaking venture in the world – generating around $150bn each year.

UK businesses, or those that supply goods or services to the UK, have an extra incentive to focus on modern slavery. The UK Modern Slavery Act is the first piece of UK legislation – and the first in Europe – to focus on prosecuting and preventing acts of modern slavery in supply chains.

Despite the UK Modern Slavery Act entering into force in 2015, a report one year on found that business efforts to address modern slavery were being hindered by supply chain complexity.

Matt Mace

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