The government will prioritise working relationships with companies that are transparent about payment processes, are ethically-conscious and play their part in eradicating modern slavery, a representative of the Civil Society Strategy has said.
Published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Civil Society Strategy aims to support the government in awarding one third of contracts to small and medium-sized businesses by 2022.
A driving objective is to prevent “the evil practices of modern slavery” by removing governmental association from companies who cannot prove their payment processes are timely.
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The Strategy aims to ensure “everything the government does, including procurement, works towards the key priorities of protecting the environment and making sure everyone has the opportunity to make the most of their talents”.
It is morally right that we make sure none of that money goes to any organisations who profit from the evil practices of modern slavery.
Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington
Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington, said: “Every year, the government spends £49billion with external organisations and it is morally right that we make sure none of that money goes to any organisations who profit from the evil practices of modern slavery.
“Similarly, it is right that we demand that the organisations we work with meet the high standards we need to protect our environment and employ workforces which represent our diverse society, including people with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities.
“By making sure that these social values are reflected not just across the government, but through all the companies we work with, we will take a major step towards our goal of creating an economy that works for everyone.”
In a statement, the government have confirmed the innovative strategy won’t cost more than current procurement processes, nor make them anymore complex.
Social value should not be seen as a luxury in any part of the public or private sectors but common sense.
Social Enterprise UK have supported the plans
Towards A ‘Common Sense’ Approach
Firms including the socially-conscious anaerobic digestion company Future Biogas, and ethical business hub Social Enterprise UK have supported the government’s plans, the latter calling them “common sense”.
They said in a statement: “This announcement will support more than 100,000 social enterprises working in the UK which employ over 2 million people. The social enterprise sector has been a great British business success story and it is right that the government does more to support it.
“Social value should not be seen as a luxury in any part of the public or private sectors but common sense. People expect modern government and business to ensure that all spending considers the needs of our society and environment. Social enterprises have been pioneers, but it is important that every sector follows.”
The Government Has More To Do
We speak to @BBCNews: 'At the moment big businesses are made to report #slavery in the supply chain, but there are no penalties for either failing to submit the statement, or whether you report that it exists.' https://t.co/48YIQ6xiq1
— Anti-Slavery International (@Anti_Slavery) March 11, 2019
Other businesses have been more critical of the news. In a statement to the BBC, the charity Anti-Slavery International suggested exploitation in the workplace is more complex than it may at first seem, citing practices such as requests for unreasonable overtime as habits which will still go unreported, as they may not be measurable in the way timely payments are.
“At the moment big businesses are made to report slavery in the supply chain, but there are no penalties for either failing to submit the statement, or whether you report that it exists,” a spokesperson warned.
The spokesperson also urged the government not to skimp and save. “If the price they’re being paid for the services is not high enough to make sure they pay the staff fairly – this is one of the reasons that companies might use exploitative practices,” they said.
The Social Value Act In Action
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Passed in 2012, the Social Value Act engages government procurement officers in ethical hiring practices. In practice this involves not always accepting the cheapest bid for work, but opting with the most socially conscious company instead.
The Act also urges procurement offers to seek the best value for money, as well as engaging with local markets and communities in order to find “new and innovative solutions to difficult problems”, says the government’s website.
A three-month period of consultation will follow, giving procurement officers time to request feedback from suppliers, public bodies and relevant members of the public.