UK investors expand anti-slavery push to construction, materials sectors

A 56-strong investor coalition is to engage with construction and materials companies this year to address forced labour.
Construction workers are seen working at a site in London.
Construction workers are seen working at a site in London.

A UK investor coalition that presses companies to unearth modern-day slavery in their supply chains said on Monday it is going to expand its campaign into the construction and materials sectors.

The “Find It, Fix It, Prevent It” initiative — founded in 2019 by CCLA Investment Management — has focused up to now on the hospitality industry.

“The construction industry is estimated to contain 18% of the world’s victims of forced labour,” CCLA’s chief executive, Peter Hugh Smith, said.

“It also has a complicated supply chain that spans the globe. Both of these factors make it an important sector for investors to engage in addressing modern slavery.”

The coalition said it has 56 investors among its members — including M&G, Fidelity International, Schroders, and EdenTree — that together managed £7 trillion ($9.6 trillion) in assets.

It said it would start engaging with companies in the construction and materials sector in the third quarter of 2021.

There has been a growing focus on ethical issues in corporate supply chains.

A separate group of religious and socially conscious investors, backed by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, told Reuters last month it was ramping up pressure on Western apparel companies with supply chains in China.

Dame Sara Thornton, the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said in a statement that companies had to do more to protect vulnerable workers.

“Investors have a pivotal role to play in ensuring that they do this,” she added.

(Reporting by Simon Jessop; editing by Andrew Heavens)