Utilities Against Slavery: A Year in Review

Utilities Against Slavery, an SFA-facilitated group of UK utilities companies, saw its 2nd full year of operations in 2022. It was a busy, productive year with a wealth of achievements and milestones, all with one objective in mind: to eradicate modern slavery from the utility sector. Having published the group’s annual report for 2022, let’s look back over a year well-spent and forward to the coming year of collaborative action.  

Expansion & Collaboration 

We are proud to report that Utilities Against Slavery grew to 25 members during 2022. The member companies represent the scope of utility providers in the UK, including gas, water, and electricity. The membership cohort employs an estimated 120,000 people, with a combined supply chain revenue in the region of 15 billion pounds. With a mix of high and low skilled labour, intricate supply chains, and multiple touch points with customers and broader communities, the utility industry is highly complex. This complexity is a core sign of how susceptible the industry can be to exploitation across its supply chain, both in the UK and globally. 

An expanding membership means an expansion of what we can achieve in making utility supply chains as robust as possible. We are delighted to be collaborating with our members – we encourage all UK utility organisations to join the group and join the fight against modern slavery!  

Learning & Teaching  

A core part of our work in 2022 was the Lunch ‘n’ Learn programme. In collaboration with the Supply Chain Sustainability School (SCSS), Utilities Against Slavery developed and delivered five expert one-hour sessions aimed at member companies and their suppliers. Access to the sessions was free of charge with recordings available for people unable to attend and for those who wish to refresh their memories. The presentations were held across lunchtime via Teams with the aim of making the sessions more accessible.  

We covered a range of crucial topics, focusing on major trends in modern slavery, core policies, modern slavery due diligence, risk evaluation, and addressing labour exploitation in supply chains. Total attendance was at over 500 people from across the industry, with feedback from participants on the content and atmosphere of the sessions being highly positive.  

Utilities Against Slavery also took opportunities to learn from others, attending sessions hosted by the Home Office, CCLA Investment Management, Achilles, and many more. Expanding our understanding is a crucial step in tackling modern slavery. To effectively address an issue, you must understand the issue. We are committed to continuing to expand and update our understanding on modern slavery in the coming year!  

Recognition & Celebration 

Utilities Against Slavery garnered high level recognition of our anti-slavery work by being shortlisted for the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Stop Slavery Awards in the category of Collaboration. We are proud that our work has been recognised by an awarding body with such considerable status within the world of human rights and anti-forced labour. It is a sign of quite how far we have come, even in two short years. 

We were delighted at the chance to meet other like-minded organisations at the award ceremony. Sharing ideas and processes gave the group plenty of inspiration moving forward into the new year, fuelling our plans to target supply chain exploitation with continually growing effectiveness. 

Planning & Development  

A year of learning and collaboration saw the group think ahead to future initiatives and modes of working. As a result of meetings with other comparable industries, including foot and retail, we devised a future operating model which we brought into effect at the end of last year. The new model brings about changes to our membership structure, including a rigid schedule of deliverables to be provided for all group members.  

In light of the year’s work and achievements, we also set about devising group opportunities for 2023. The year’s activities will be set out during a strategy day in February. Ideas for the coming year include a continuation of our expert educational sessions and resources, anti-slavery toolkits, collaborative work on mapping key areas of supply chain risk and expanded engagement with external organisations to share best practice.  

Get onboard 

2023 promises to be an active and vigilant year ahead for the Utilities Against Slavery group. Galvanised off the back of a jam-packed 2022, we are devoted to continuing to refine, develop, and expand awareness around this crucial and abhorrent issue.  

You can join the fight. All UK utilities companies are eligible for membership. Fees are set according to your organisation’s annual turnover: £500 for annual turnover of less than £50 million, £3,000 for turnover of greater than £50 million.  

Interested and inspired? Do not hesitate to get in touch. Today is a great day to start work towards a robust, slavery-free workforce. 

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