2018 June 19

Local authorities must work to eradicate exploitation in global supply chains, says UNISON

Local authorities are not doing enough to protect workers' rights globally, according to research published last week by UNISON. According to the report Ethical Procurement in UK Local Authorities, produced by People & Planet on behalf of UNISON, only eight of the 190 local authorities looked at had a standalone ethical procurement policy. One in five local authorities were unable to find evidence of sustainability being part of procurement practices, policies or strategies. There are 20 local authorities amongst Electronics Watch’s 200 affiliates – one is in the UK.

UNISON’s research sought to obtain a picture of current practices and policies regarding ethical procurement of local authorities in the UK, including affiliation to Electronics Watch. At present, one UK local authority is a member of Electronics Watch – Tower Hamlets Borough Council – meaning that their procurement team receives regular updates and reports of working conditions in the electronics factories that make the goods they buy, and works together with other public sector buyers to improve conditions and address long-term, systemic issues in the industry.

“To this end, the council is a leader of ethical procurement practices in the UK, pioneering an innovative and effective approach to using institutional purchasing power to reform supply chains.” the report states.

UNISON head of local government Heather Wakefield said: " Ethical procurement practices in local authorities remain in the early stages and lack clear and effective polices for addressing violations of human rights. This needs to change."

Electronics Watch director Björn Claeson said: " UNISON’s report calls attention to the opportunities for local authorities to take effective action to identify, mitigate and prevent modern slavery and other labour abuses in their supply chains.  Together, they can make a positive impact for workers in the UK and globally."

The Local Government Association ICT procurement guidance strategy also recommends local authorities to consider joining Electronics Watch.