Last edited 14 Dec 2020

Main author

BRE Buzz Researcher Website

Ethical labour sourcing standard for construction


[edit] Overview

The Centre for Sustainable Products at BRE has had a long involvement in product environmental assessment with products such as Environmental Profiles and the Green Guide to Specification.

Over the past few years this has evolved from a largely quantitative approach to recognise the broader sustainability issues that touch procurement and supply chain assurance. There is now the well-established BES 6001 Framework Standard for Responsible Sourcing with a number of leading international companies being certificated to this standard.

More recently, BRE has launched the Ethical Labour Sourcing (ELS) standard, an approach which takes them closer to more subjective (and arguably more challenging issues) such as human rights, due diligence, and recognising how organisations can evolve and mature in their approaches.

The ELS represents an approach to verifying the commitment of an organisation in relation to human rights due diligence both within its own operations and its supply chain. The ELS does not purport to prove the absence of modern slavery but gives assurance that the organisations that are verified to the ELS will seek to improve year on year and are more likely to be looking in the right places rather than turning a blind eye.

The ELS Standard specifies the requirements for organisational management to demonstrate an on-going commitment to the principles of ethical labour sourcing in relation to the provision of products and services.

The requirements of the Standard provide a framework against which all organisations may be assessed. The framework comprises criteria for evaluating the maturity of the performance of the organisation under issues including:

Verification is not based on an aggregation of the levels of maturity in these issues, but is based on a commitment to improve through an agreed set of objectives.

Many associations and professional institutions in the construction industry have already created toolkits and training materials on this topic such as the Supply Chain Sustainability School, CIPS and CIOB.

BRE are planning the next step by working together for a higher purpose as an industry to eradicate modern slavery.

[edit] Updates

[edit] Oct 2017

In October 2017, one of the UK’s leading building and civil engineering companies, Sir Robert McAlpine, became the first contractor to be verified under the ELS Standard.

Sir Robert McAlpine, whose noteworthy projects include the 2012 Olympic Stadium, Bloomberg’s new London headquarters and Victoria Gate retail development in Leeds among others, are already leading the sector in its approach to sustainability and ethical sourcing.

Paul Hamer, Chief Executive of Sir Robert McAlpine, said:

Forced labour can have no place on Britain’s construction projects; it is an unseen and evil practice that must be stopped. Our business is working incredibly hard to demonstrate that Sir Robert McAlpine will not tolerate it and this ELS accreditation is testament to our commitment. I congratulate BRE for shining a light on this important subject and look forward to seeing other contractors follow our lead.”

Dr Shamir Ghumra, Director of Sustainable Products at BRE said:

“We would like to congratulate Sir Robert McAlpine in becoming the first ELS-verified contractor. We hope this will spur on more organisations into identifying opportunities to improve their ethical practices and help eradicate the evils of enforced labour and modern slavery, and help the industry as a whole raise its operating standards.”

[edit] Apr 2018

In April 2018, BRE launched the Online Ethical Labour Sourcing standard (BES 6002). The Ethical Labour Sourcing Standard (ELS) provides a way for companies to self-assess their on-going commitment to the principles of ethical labour sourcing and profile their corporate governance.

The progression to an online tool – to support the existing offline service – enables businesses to create an account and immediately begin to understand their strengths and weaknesses in terms of corporate governance risks and requirements.

The online ELS platform sets out actions to be completed to demonstrate the adoption of the principles of ethical labour sourcing. These actions are established from an assessment against 12 issues areas:

Companies may then be satisfied that they are ready to progress to the formal verification process – which involves a site visit from BRE, producing specific management documentation in the 12 issues areas. In the meantime, they can revisit, re-evaluate and measure online how they are performing against their own objectives, needs and identified risks.


This article was originally published here by BRE Buzz on 22 Mar 2017. It was written by Shamir Ghumra.

--BRE Buzz

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