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Author: Jodie Coombs

Minimising Business Risk from your Supply Chain

Today’s supply chain leaders face a range of different pressures…

However, the two most prominent and ever-present pressures – reducing costs and reducing risk – are also, unfortunately, often at odds with one other. A solution for one will usually make the other more difficult. Cost reduction can be achieved through lean practices; supplier rationalisation and use of fewer distribution facilities, as well as just in time (JIT) inventory management and service outsourcing. However, all of these actions also have the potential to expose your supply chain to greater risk. Looking at it from the other angle, putting extra checks and balances in place to control supply chain risk will usually create an extra cost for your business. So, what should supply chain leaders prioritise?

Minimise risk, maximise opportunity

In a turbulent political environment, supply chain disruption is a key concern for businesses at present. But it isn’t the only supply chain risk which can be costly. For instance, businesses should also take the time to ensure that compliance with health and safety legislation continues to be prioritised by each one of their supply chain partners, particularly since the implementation of ISO45001 in March 2019. The new regulation requires employers to manage risk across their entire supply chain, by expanding the definition of ‘workers’ to include both employees and contractors[1].

Linked to this – and a further factor to consider when assessing the potential cost of risk in the supply chain – is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). This might mean something slightly different for every organisation but sustainability, a focus on social enterprise and responsible approaches to modern slavery are just some of the issues currently at the top of the agenda for businesses, thanks to increased pressure from investors, stakeholders and customers. Sustainability in particular is under the spotlight right now, and likely to remain so while our nation works towards its net zero ambitions. If you don’t insist on sustainable practices from your supply chain, you risk jeopardising your business’ green credentials, no matter how hard you work on them internally. 

There are both short- and long-term benefits in insisting on ethical and sustainable practices across your supply chain. In the short term, you stand to improve your brand reputation, attract more business and secure better levels of funding. In the long term, you will protect what has been described as the ‘triple bottom line’[2]: people, profits and planet. Sustainable practices benefit today’s businesses and give them resilience for tomorrow; they also create a positive impact for employees and communities, and ensure that there will be the resources and economic strength to support businesses in the future. While the initial outlay associated with implementing CSR measures across the supply chain may give some businesses pause, the ongoing value and growth opportunities CSR delivers must always be considered.

Taking action

Eliminating risk from supply chains is perhaps more difficult now than ever before, mainly because supply chains are more complex but also because it’s easier to fall foul of shifting regulation. For businesses who want to proactively take measures to control risk, there are three main things you should consider doing:

Diversify your supplier base

While using fewer suppliers – or more local suppliers – can trim costs, diversifying your supplier base can help to protect you from disruption. For example, think about using suppliers who use secondary ports, or suppliers in different geographical locations even if equivalent materials are available from suppliers in the same location. That way, you won’t be affected by disruption in one country or region.

Collaborate

Effective communication is a key strength of every successful supply chain. Think about creating a shared risk management plan with supply chain and logistics partners and aim to create a culture in which they can talk to you about their concerns and share information on potential issues or disruption. Working in this way will not only give you advanced warning of problems and allow you to take mitigating action, it will also give you the opportunity to draw on their local or specialist knowledge to find a solution and ensure the best possible outcome for your business.

Use technology to increase visibility and ensure compliance

Technology can help you coordinate pre-qualification, monitor performance and manage your supply chain compliance. Done well, it can also give you better visibility, not only of every site but also of every worker. At its best, technology doesn’t just help you keep track of the status quo, it will also enable you to drive operational improvement. The crucial thing will be finding a technology partner that understands your world – and software that can be tailored around your individual requirements.

Altius client SEGRO was struggling to eliminate inconsistencies in its supply chain but couldn’t find a software solution that offered all the functionality they needed – specifically ultimate visibility on a multilingual basis. They are now using Altius’ platform and consistently maintaining more than 90% compliance across their supply chain. Read the full case study to find out more: https://www.altiusva.com/blog/case-study/segro/

[1] https://www.iso.org/iso-45001-occupational-health-and-safety.html

2 https://www.supplychaindigital.com/supply-chain/why-sustainability-has-extend-down-supply-chain

The Changing Role of the Supply Chain Leader

The role of the supply chain leader is changing…

For instance, according to research from IDG[1], new marketplace demands mean that 85% of food and consumer goods supply chain leaders believe their role has become more complex over the last five years, especially when it comes to product range and route to market. In addition, 71% report that their job responsibilities have become broader, and that this change poses a particular challenge because it coincides with a decrease in workforce resource of around one third.

So, why are businesses expecting so much more from their supply chain leaders, and what can those leaders do to make sure their organisation remains profitable and their supply chain remains efficient, despite the additional day to day pressures they face? The answer to both questions may lie with increased digital capabilities.

Meeting the needs of digitally connected customers

IDG tells us that supply chain complexity is ‘here to stay’. It’s being driven by increased consumer expectation, digital connectivity, and a ‘need it now’ mentality. For today’s businesses, omnichannel fulfilment requirements and the desire for unlimited choice sit alongside an unprecedented need for speed, with customers also increasingly having sustainability requirements, but often being unwilling to compromise on price. It’s creating a pressurised environment for supply chain teams, who are overstretched and under resourced – and it’s an issue which echoes out across all sectors; no longer limited to retail or fast-moving goods.

The good news is that it’s not just the role of supply chain leaders which is evolving, their status within organisations is also seeing dramatic change. No longer a strategic afterthought, supply chain management is fast becoming central to broader business strategies. With organisations increasingly called upon by consumers, stakeholders and investors to provide transparency on provenance, environmental impact and ethics across their supply chain, the role of the supply chain leader is now being recognised as a commercial one; one that has the ability to influence the future direction of a business and enable growth. It’s a fact that’s demonstrated by some of today’s leading retailers incorporating supply chain capabilities into their brand identities; think Amazon and fast-fulfilment, Tesco and minimised food waste, Tony’s Chocolonely and elimination of modern slavery, Carrefour and transparent provenance[2]. These are just some of the business which have recognised that good supply chain management is key to securing ongoing commercial success.

The role of technology in future supply chains

Just as digital capability is increasing the complexity of the supply chain leader’s role, so it has the ability to help them optimise operations and drive new efficiencies for their organisation. Technology can make supply chains more responsive, data systems can make greater visibility possible, and analytical software can help to relieve the administrative burden of supply chain management.

As supply chains become more globalised and more complex, so more businesses are looking for digital ways to streamline their processes. Leading research company Gartner believes that this trend is set to continue, going one step further to report that, ‘Innovative technologies, such as blockchain and AI/machine learning, can potentially and significantly disrupt existing supply chain operating models’[3]. In the future, it is likely that more and more supply chain and logistic decisions will be made by AI and that advanced analytics will be employed to make our supply chains faster and more profitable. It’s therefore crucial that businesses stay well informed on technological advancements, to be sure they are fast to implement the solutions that best suit their needs.

While human judgement can never be replaced, digital capability and an understanding of the role which artificial intelligence, blockchain technology and the internet of things could play in your supply chain operations will be essential to optimising processes and making sure businesses can adapt to changing demands, unlock new opportunities and create sustainable growth. According to IDG, almost half of all supply chain leaders are already prioritising the development of a data-driven culture. They go on to say that ‘it may be that some businesses survive without a data-driven culture, but they will increasingly be the exceptions.’[4]

For those who lack the capital to invest in new technology or who need help preparing for a more complex future, it may be worth outsourcing some elements of supply chain management to a specialist partner. Performance and compliance remain at the top of every supply chain leader’s priority list and are harder to achieve as supply chain complexity increases. At Altius, we have the software and the expertise to help…

[1] https://www.igd.com/ and reported at https://www.essentialretail.com/news/supply-chain-leadership-roles-now/

[2]Supply Chains for Growth Report: https://www.igd.com/research/igd-futures/supply-chains-for-growth

[3] https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/gartner-top-8-supply-chain-technology-trends-for-2019/

[4] Supply Chains for Growth Report: https://www.igd.com/research/igd-futures/supply-chains-for-growth

Protecting the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain during Brexit

It’s the nature of all supply chains that they must prepare for the possibility of disturbance…

This is particularly true today when many are experiencing higher levels of risk in the run up to Brexit. In the healthcare arena, supply chain risk is also a risk to patient wellbeing – and can sometimes even represent a risk to life. The existing economic, manufacturing and regulatory risk factors faced by the pharmaceutical industry that were already growing year on year and have been compounded by ongoing political uncertainty. Now, those responsible for managing supply chains in the pharmaceutical sector must not only guard against counterfeit drugs, ensure compliance with ever-stricter regulations and enable complete traceability, they must also have robust contingency measures in place to make sure patients in both the UK and Europe can access the medicines they need, no matter what happens on 31st October.

Every month 37 million packs of medicine arrive in the UK from the EU, with 45 million moving the other way[1]. With Brexit now only three short weeks away, the pharmaceutical industry has been working hard behind the scenes to prevent a disruption to supply. The short-term challenge will be to fulfil demand. The longer-term challenge will be to keep cross-border supply chains operating efficiently and cost-effectively. It’s an unfortunate fact for the industry that tariff costs could potentially add up to £50m a year[2] to the industry’s operating costs, depending on the type of deal the UK is able to secure. It’s difficult to predict exactly how supply chains will be affected until customs arrangements are decided. Continued membership of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and a shared ‘rule book’ of standards would certainly protect the future of the UK’s pharma businesses, as would measures to protect data flow between the UK and EU. But with much of this beyond the control of individual businesses, what else can they be doing to safeguard their supply chains during this difficult time?

Here are three things Altius believe should be on the action list:

Solidify supplier relationships

Building better supplier relationships often begins with a shift in perspective. The procurement role must expand beyond purely operational concerns to become more strategic. Choose suppliers whose values align with your own and aim to create a culture of mutual trust and loyalty. Reward quality and reliable delivery with your own focus on brilliant communication and timely payments – and make sure your suppliers feel able to come to you with any concerns they may have. In this way, you are more likely to receive advanced notice of potential disruption and be able to work together to mitigate risk.

Improve visibility and traceability

At a time when there are so many disruptive forces at work, the ability to make faster, data-driven decisions across complex supply chains is invaluable. The pharmaceutical industry is one which understands the power of data. Unfortunately, while businesses have been quick to harness this power for R&D purposes, they are often lagging behind when it comes to utilising data for better supply chain visibility[3]. If you haven’t got the technology or capability to make improvements in-house, it might be time to look for an expert partner who does. Be sure to choose one that understands the challenges you face – and can shape their solutions around your individual needs. Optimising supply chain visibility now will give your business more resilience during the upheaval ahead and will also help you boost performance and operational efficiency to mitigate whatever potential cost rises the future brings.

Consider outsourcing compliance

Compliance is a core concern of every pharmaceutical business. Despite this, many organisations don’t have reliable processes in place to audit suppliers for compliance on an ongoing basis. If monitoring supply chain compliance is something you don’t have the resources to do well, it’s worth considering outsourcing to a specialist – particularly as there’s ample potential for regulatory shift during this time of transition. A failure to prioritise compliance right across the supply chain is a significant risk for any business but a particular risk for the healthcare sector, and outmoded manual processes could jeopardise the safety of your supply chain and your business – not to mention the safety of end-user patients. Data and connectivity are once again invaluable here, to provide you with transparency and give you one less thing to worry about.

Altius has the experience, resources and systems you need to make your supply chain safer, more reliable and more competitive. We truly understand the importance of operating with honesty, transparency and integrity and are committed to supporting businesses during the uncertain times ahead. If you’d like to talk about your supply chain concerns, please get in touch.

[1] https://www.abpi.org.uk/media-centre/news/2018/july/pharmaceutical-industry-reaction-to-brexit-white-paper/

2 https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/feb/19/what-are-brexit-contingency-plans-for-pharmaceutical-industry

3 https://pharmafield.co.uk/in_depth/importance-data-process-in-the-pharma-industry/

How Can We Avoid the Most Common Workplace Health and Safety Risks?

There’s no denying that some industries are safer than others – but some of the most common health and safety issues can happen to any worker, in any industry…

So how can employers across all industries protect their workers from these risks?

While organisations should always carry out their own risk assessments, so they can tailor their health and safety policies and processes to the unique risks their workers face, there are some illnesses and injuries that every business should be working to prevent. The actions they will need to take to avoid these ailments may differ according to their working environment, but if all organisations focus on these issues then we could see them becoming less common than they are today.

Here are some of the biggest health and safety issues facing workers across industries:

Stress, depression and anxiety

Work-related stress, depression and anxiety is one of the biggest health risks to workers across all industries – in 2017/18, these mental health issues accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health, and 57% of all working days lost to ill health. There are higher than average rates of stress, depression or anxiety among those working in education, health and social work and public admin/defence.However, the underlying issues that cause workers to feel stressed, anxious or depressed can occur in any industry.

Altius’ top tip: Encourage employees to talk

An unmanageable workload emerged as the most common cause of these illnesses, and it’s important for employers to address this issue. Ensure that your workers feel able to approach their managers with any concerns they may have – about their workload or any other aspects of their role – and feel confident that they will be taken seriously.

 Injuries from slips, trips or falls

When it comes to injuries, the most common risks to workers are slips, trips and falls, which can happen to any worker – whether they’re walking through an office or a construction site. While you will never be able to prevent your workers from slipping at all, there are some easy ways to remove fall hazards wherever you work.

Altius’ top tip: Carry out a risk assessment

Every workplace is different, even those within the same industry, so walk through your site and look for any slip or trip risks that your employees face while they’re doing their job. If you’re operating within an office environment, for example, you may need to remove cables or cords from walkways, whereas on a construction site, you might want to implement a structured process for keeping on top of debris.  

Musculoskeletal disorders

If you’re not working in an industry that involves physical labour, you may not think that your workers are at risk of musculoskeletal disorders, but these disorders can affect workers in any industry. While the agriculture, forestry and fishing and construction industries have the highest rates of musculoskeletal issues, those working in public admin and defence and health and social work are also at a higher than average risk of these disorders.

Altius’ top tip: Educate your employees to keep them safe

There are such a wide range of health issues that fall under the ‘musculoskeletal’ label, and an equally broad range of causes that can trigger them – from carrying out repetitive work to lifting heavy objects in the wrong way. That’s why regular and robust training is so necessary, as by educating workers in best practice for preventing these issues, they can protect themselves while they’re working.

Keeping all workers healthy and safe

It’s not just your own employees that you need to protect from these common health and safety risks – when your suppliers are on site, you must ensure that they are working to your high standards of health and safety too.

Altius has years of experience in helping businesses across sectors, from M&S to Travelodge, to reduce risk throughout their supply chain. Our software and services enable clients to manage health and safety across their supply chain and collaborate with their suppliers in real-time – to find out more, visit our web page.

Living Up to Expectations: Solving the Logistical Challenge of 21st Century Retail

Today’s consumer looks and acts nothing like the consumer of 25 years ago…

Back then, the weekly shop was often still a family outing, deliveries of goods to your home usually took several days, and a store could be forgiven for running out of fresh milk. In 2019, things have changed: the average consumer has a well-developed ‘need it now’ mentality and an expectation of convenience, driven by digital connectivity and their own fast-paced life. In this brave new world, disruption of supply is the enemy and empty shelves lead to lowered customer confidence.

It follows that today’s retailer must adapt or die; not only delivering the goods that their customers want, but also providing the convenience that they expect. Items that are ordered online must be delivered on time, supermarket shelves that hold fast moving consumer goods must be continually replenished, and customer loyalty must be secured by a consistent ability to live up to expectations.

This is a challenge that’s likely to escalate as our towns and cities become more densely populated – 45% of our UK population want to live near a major town or city[1] – and it’s one which can only be met if retailers hold closer relationships with logistics companies, as well as a thorough overview of their supply chain.

Understanding the changing logistics infrastructure

Solving the logistical challenge of retail in the UK today will require retailers to have a fuller understanding of our changing logistics infrastructure. As it’s no longer realistic for retailers to rely on a delivery of palletised goods from a national distribution centre on a daily or weekly basis, retail logistics networks now extend across the UK and product is moved from smaller, regional distribution centres as well as the larger centralised ones. Alongside this, small fulfilment centres exist to provide the ability to pick, pack and deliver goods to consumers on the same day – and sometimes within an hour.

What makes things faster and more convenient for the consumer, and therefore profitable for the retailer, also makes things much more complex for the logistics provider. And in today’s world, there is no room for error – as any disruption to deliveries will mean increased expense, lost sales and customer dissatisfaction.

Planning and optimisation are obviously crucial in the accelerated world of logistics, but there are other practical implications to consider too. Logistics businesses now often require space in city locations to reach our increasingly urbanised population, which can be costly. There’s also the strain on our overstretched road networks to consider here, alongside the costs of transport and availability of workforce – and all of this must be negotiated within ever-tightening margins. It’s a situation which Peter Ward, Chairman of the UK Warehousing Association (UKWA) believes is unsustainable.

The UKWA lobbies government to consider logistics when approving any new housing development, as increased numbers of residents will inevitably lead to increased deliveries of food and online purchases. The UKWA have also worked to raise awareness of labour shortages in retail logistics, which it believes will be exacerbated by migrant workers needing a degree-level education after Brexit, as the Government has proposed; as a quarter of the lower skilled roles in the industry are filled by immigrant labour. The association’s recent report: Feeding London 2030[2] examines some of the extremes of the retail logistics problem and suggests that retailers need to have a better understanding of the true costs of logistics, of the need for a margin in a world preoccupied with driving down costs, and of how working more closely together could help both sides discover a more sustainable solution.

Logistics as the new retailers

Just as retailers need to get under the skin of their logistics partners, logistics businesses who want to ‘future-proof’ their operations might consider adopting the mindset of a retailer. After all, 75% of UK logistics activity today relates to the consumer – essentially making it a retail business[3]. Here the ‘customer journey’ takes on new meaning and effective communication from those responsible for the transport of goods will be key to successful relationships with retailers – even if that simply means notifying them promptly if a delivery will be delayed.

While technology has increased the complexity of logistics planning, it can also provide the solution to new challenges: better systems for data handling and the ability to track transport are making supply chain management easier, and should mean that order errors can be reduced and long waiting times for deliveries can be eradicated. Unfortunately, there is much work to be done here as currently only 12% of retailers know the planned arrival time of all trucks into their warehouse, according to a recent report by Germany’s RWTH Aachen University[4].

Just as logistics is the vital link in any retail supply chain, the success of any logistics business is dependent on the ability of the retailers it serves to meet their own customers’ expectations. Investing in better systems and software to help with this should be a priority for any logistics provider who is struggling to provide a joined-up service. All things considered, it seems that the success of both industries will depend on them building closer relationships that can support change through the practical and financial challenges that lie ahead.

At Altius, we help retailers manage their complete supply chains efficiently and compliantly, all within one system. Whether that’s identifying the right partners for logistics, warehousing, facilities management or more, you can read more about the ways in which we support the retail sector here.

[1] https://www.ukwa.org.uk/feeding-london-2030-facing-logistical-challenge/

[2] https://www.ukwa.org.uk/feeding-london-2030-facing-logistical-challenge/

[3] https://internetretailing.net/magazine-articles/magazine-articles/logistics-is-the-new-retail

[4] Everything 4.0 or just hype: key trends in transport logistics

The Benefits of Safeguarding Mental Health across your Supply Chain

Every business that uses third party contractors or suppliers will understand the importance – and challenge – of managing health and safety across its supply chain…

Making sure you only work with organisations that adhere to SSIP standards is usually the best way to do this; with certification offering you a low cost, low hassle way of checking that your supply chain partners are health and safety compliant. What businesses might be less aware of is the role that mental health plays in the overall health and safety culture of its operations. All employers have a legal obligation to monitor risk and put protective measures in place against mental health issues[1], just as they do for physical health issues. They also have legal obligations to make reasonable adjustments when employing people with pre-existing mental health problems, just as they do for any type of disability – and most comply with their obligations. But beyond this, many do little towards improving the mental health and wellbeing of their workers, despite it offering several significant commercial benefits.

The wellbeing of your workforce can impact productivity, profitability and reputation; effectively shaping perceptions of your business and playing a part in your overall success. It’s something which Emma Head, HS2 Ltd’s Safety and Assurance Director understands. She is recently quoted as saying,“As an industry we rightly shout about safety, but whisper about wellbeing and mental health.”[2]

HS2 is the largest infrastructure project in Europe. It already supports 7,000 jobs across 60 sites between Birmingham and London and expects to support 30,000 jobs by around 2023. As business leaders, HS2 Ltd want to set new standards for health and safety which will protect workers right across the supply chain, as well as the general public. They’ve recently unveiled seven new principles, which they expect all of the companies they work with to adhere to, and which they hope will create a legacy of new standards for their industry. Key amongst these is workforce health and wellbeing.

The financial cost of poor mental health

One in four people experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives[3].  Add this fact to figures from the HSE[4] which tell us that mental health issues resulted in 11.7 million working days lost in 2015/16 and a cost to employers of between £33 billion and £42 billion (through presenteeism, low productivity, sickness absence and staff turnover) and it becomes easy to see how setting new supply chain standards on wellbeing has the potential to deliver bottom line benefits for your business. If more businesses follow the examples being set by HS2 Ltd, it also has the power to significantly impact the health of our UK economy as a whole. Speaking at the Mad World conference in London in 2018, former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable quoted figures from the previous year’s Stevenson/Farmer review[5] on mental health, which revealed mental health costs the UK economy between £74 billion and £99 billion per year; much more than the cost of Brexit[6].

Of course, the cost of poor mental health is much more than simply financial. It’s a shocking fact that the suicide rate among low-skilled male labourers is three times higher than the national average for men[7]. Businesses who use large numbers of short-term contractors and 2nd-tier suppliers therefore have a particular responsibility to look for evidence of good practice across their supply chain when it comes to wellbeing – an issue which brings even greater responsibility when aggravated by the problems of modern slavery.

Taking action on wellbeing

So, what can businesses do to build a culture of health and wellbeing across their supply chain? While each situation is unique and will require a tailored approach to mental health management, the ‘mental health core standards’ laid out by the Thriving at Work[8] report provides a strong starting point.

The report includes a comprehensive best practice guide for employers who want to raise standards of mental health protection in their workplace. The standards it sets out require employers to:

As with all good health and safety practice, the key to successful action on wellbeing will begin with regulatory compliance and include a robust plan, well communicated. Setting standards and communicating expectations across your supply chain sends a clear message that your business takes mental health and wellbeing seriously. Those businesses who lead the way and endeavour to raise standards of mental health, as well as physical health and safety, will undoubtedly reap the rewards brought by a more motivated and productive workforce.

[1] https://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/mental-health.htm

[2] https://www.shponline.co.uk/occupational-health/hs2-calls-for-improved-approach-to-mental-health-and-wellbeing/

[3] http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/mental-health.htm

[4] http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/strategiesandplans/health-and-work-strategy/work-related-stress.pdf

[5] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/658145/thriving-at-work-stevenson-farmer-review.pdf

[6] https://www.shponline.co.uk/news/sir-vince-cable-warns-mental-health-is-costing-the-uk-more-than-brexit/

[7] https://www.shponline.co.uk/occupational-health/hs2-calls-for-improved-approach-to-mental-health-and-wellbeing/

[8] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/658145/thriving-at-work-stevenson-farmer-review.pdf

Modern Slavery and the Risk of Inaction

Modern Slavery
It’s been more than four years since The Modern Slavery Act (2015) provided some much-needed tools for fighting modern slavery here in the UK…

Unfortunately, over 200 years on from the abolition of the slave trade in Britain, the gaps in our modern-day legislation are starting to show – and mean that large numbers of workers both here and abroad continue to suffer dangerous and dehumanising conditions. Despite the UK’s efforts to take the lead in stamping out modern slavery, the Global Slavery Index estimates there are currently 16 million victims of forced labour in the private sector.1

While most UK businesses have been quick to recognise their responsibility and keen to eradicate slavery, compliance with modern slavery legislation isn’t always easy, particularly where intricate supply chains make data gathering difficult. For those businesses who have let anti-slavery measures slip down the agenda or suspect that their supply chain needs deeper scrutiny, it may be time to strengthen strategies. Modern slavery is back in the spotlight for 2019, with more cases reaching the courts and the press, and anticipated new legislation which could increase both the burden of compliance and the risk of inaction.

The business risk of modern slavery

Although a particular issue in construction, agriculture and anywhere that high numbers of short-term contractors and second tier suppliers are used, modern slavery is something businesses from all sectors should confront without delay. Failure to act is no longer a purely ethical concern: a recent review of the 2015 legislation, growing public awareness thanks to the action of groups including Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, ShareAction, Global Witness and CORE, and a 2019 Supreme Court ruling (Vedanta Resources Plc v Lungowe2) which has broadened the duty of care imposed on businesses, have all combined to create an environment in which a business could be putting its operations, investment and reputation at risk if it fails to take modern slavery seriously.

Unfortunately, difficulties associated with ensuring compliance across complex supply chains, particularly where pockets of low visibility or limited leverage exist, has meant that even some leading global companies have failed to prioritise good practice. A recent report by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC)3 has revealed that the modern slavery transparency statements provided by many FTSE100 companies were “weak… offering little or no information (on the six reporting areas defined by the 2015 Act)… changed very little from year to year and did not show progress on understanding their modern slavery risks”. The BHRRC believes that the Modern Slavery Act 2015 failed to deliver the transformational change it promised. It is just one of many voices now calling for major reform of UK law.

Recommended changes will bring new responsibilities

So, what is likely to change and how will it affect UK businesses? Australia’s 2018 Modern Slavery Act, which came into force on January 1st 2019, has gone further than UK law by defining mandatory reporting criteria. It is expected that the UK will want to stay ahead of global legislation; making mandatory reporting requirements highly likely when the Modern Slavery Act is updated. While this was not an explicit recommendation of the Independent Review of the 2015 Modern Slavery Act5, mandatory due diligence is high on the priority list for many key stakeholders who believe that legislation should be doing more to protect vulnerable workers. Additionally, during April 2019 a group of UK civil rights organisations including ClientEarth, Amnesty International and Unison, called for a mandatory human rights and due diligence law for all UK companies4.

The overriding message to businesses is that those already included within existing legislation would be wise to start preparing for more stringent reporting obligations in the imminent future; while those who fall outside the scope of the 2015 Act should be aware that they too may soon be held accountable for ‘irresponsible corporate practices’.

One explicit recommendation which did come out of the Independent Review was that businesses be made responsible for the ‘entirety’ of their supply chain. Other notable recommendations include making non-compliant companies ineligible to bid for public procurement contracts and – significantly – making ‘failure to fulfil modern slavery statement reporting requirements or to act when instances of slavery are found’, an offence under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 19865. Put simply, this would mean that a named, designated board member would be accountable for their organisation’s modern slavery statement and actions. In the future, failure to act will therefore be likely to bring consequences for businesses and the individuals who lead them.

Ensuring compliance

A business is already captured within the criteria for the Modern Slavery Act 2015 if it supplies goods and/or services, has an annual turnover of £36m or more and carries on a business or part of a business in the UK. These businesses are required to produce a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year. They must set out ‘the steps the organisation has taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of its supply chains, and in any part of its own business’. If no steps have been taken, transparency requires that this be stated, although recommendations for reform include prohibiting a statement of ‘no steps’ and requiring that action be taken.

Ensuring modern slavery compliance can be a time-consuming task and is unfortunately one that often falls between departments, with no one team or individual taking ownership. However, with accountability looking set to increase, developing a clear compliance process is more important than ever before. Wherever a business sits in the supply chain, online data systems that are easily updatable are a must, while businesses with a turnover of more than £36m need seamless systems for requesting information from suppliers; one which goes further than the PQQ data requirements and which is repeated on an annual basis. These organisations should also seek evidence of procedures being followed, communicating regularly with all participants in the supply chain and using desk-top and on-site audits to ensure that suppliers are acting appropriately. Due diligence is the only way to protect your business from the risks posed by modern slavery.

For practical advice on putting greater control around your supply chain when it comes to modern slavery, speak to our compliance experts or download our guide for more information.

1. https://www.globalslaveryindex.org

2. In April 2019, the Supreme Court in Vedanta Resources Plc v Lungowe determined that a UK-domiciled parent company may owe a duty of care to third parties affected by operations of its Zambian copper mine subsidiary. Vedanta is the holding company of KCM, which is the owner-operator of the Nchanga copper mine. https://www.whitecase.com/sites/whitecase/files/files/download/publications/supreme-court-finds-that-uk-domiciled-parent-company-may-owe-duty-of-care-to-third-parties-for-the-acts-of-its-foreign-subsidiaries.pdf

3. FTSE100 and the Modern Slavery Act: From Disclosure to Action https://www.business-humanrights.org/sites/default/files/FTSE%20100%20Briefing%202018.pdf

4. https://corporate-responsibility.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/190417_UK-mHRDD-campaign-statement_FINAL-with-logos.pdf

5.https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/803406/Independent_review_of_the_Modern_Slavery_Act_-_final_report.pdf

Securing Supplier Compliance from the Outset

Securing Supplier Compliance
Managing your supply chain can be complex and when you’re busy thinking about logistics, procurement, IT security and a host of other requirements, managing supplier compliance can fall down your list of priorities…

But as it’s your organisation’s responsibility to ensure every contractor working for you is compliant – and your reputation that’s at risk if something goes wrong – it’s crucial to make sure that everyone understands what’s required of them and can meet compliance standards.

Here are our top tips for securing supplier compliance from the start of a project:

Gather Relevant Information

Every project is different, and every supplier will have their own unique capabilities. To find the suppliers that are capable of carrying out a specific job successfully, you need to be clear on the information you need from them.

It can be tempting to ask as many questions as possible to all your suppliers, but you should only ask for the information you really need. If a supplier will never need to work at height while on your project, for example, then asking them whether they’re registered to work at heights is unnecessary. Being clear on what’s required should make it easier for suppliers to demonstrate their capabilities.

Verification is Key

Supplier assessment, or onboarding, is critical to ensure that the capabilities suppliers claim to have are valid, but it can be a time-consuming process. Before any work begins, you must check your supplier’s standards and verify that they have the insurance and certifications they need to meet your health and safety requirements.

A one-off check of suppliers’ credentials isn’t enough either – you must make regular checks to make sure that they’re compliant for the duration of the project. If a certificate expires or their insurance lapses while they’re on site, you could be liable.

Be Clear on Authorisation

When you approve a supplier to deliver work for your company, being specific on what they are authorised to do can make a real difference to your own team and to your suppliers.

Make sure everyone knows which suppliers are approved for which jobs – investing in good software can help you to distribute this information throughout your organisation and reduce admin time. Integrating supplier compliance information into your procurement and ordering systems can also streamline the process and ensure that non-approved suppliers aren’t used. You should also tell suppliers exactly what they’re approved for, as this should give them a sense of pride in their status and motivate them to maintain it.

Compliance Doesn’t Have to be Complex

When you’re trying to get a project off the ground quickly, having a simple way to see which suppliers are compliant with your requirements can significantly reduce your admin time. With Altius’s Exigo platform, you can develop a set of compliance questions that are tailored to your unique needs, so it’s clear to suppliers what is required of them.

Once you’ve chosen a supplier, you can also use Exigo to get a real-time view of their current compliance status, so you can rest assured that you’re not exposed to risk at any point in your project.

*If you think streamlining your supplier authorisation process could benefit your organisation, get in touch to find out more.

Safer Stores – Eliminating Hazards in Retail

Safer Stores - Eliminating Hazards in Retail
The retail industry is the largest private sector employer in the UK, providing jobs for around 3 million people across the UK…

As you would expect from a sector of such proportions and encompassing such a diverse range of businesses, the daily tasks completed by employees are extremely varied. Some will be members of a customer service team who spend most of their time on the shop floor, while others will have manual or inventory duties in a stock room or warehouse setting; for some, there may be only limited movement away from a checkout, while others will have days that consist mostly of manual lifting and carrying. The hazards of a retail workplace will depend on a broad range of factors including the size of the team, the different areas that make up the working environment, and the products stored and sold, so devising an effective health and safety plan may seem tricky at first – but it’s vital that employers prioritise safe working.

Health and safety to suit all sizes

The legal duty of retail employers, as with other types of employer, is covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It requires employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees. With such a broad duty to fulfil, retailers could be forgiven for feeling like protecting their employees is a near impossible task – but it’s important to remember that the legal requirements can be broken down into assessment and control of risk. Many of the risks associated with retail can be eliminated or reduced through good communication, effective housekeeping, common sense procedures and basic training. The most important thing is that retailers recognise their duty and act on it, rather than assuming that low risk probably means no risk.

While retail hazards may seem relatively few compared to manufacturing or construction, in a busy retail environment it can be easy for smaller dangers to be overlooked. Potential risks like blocked exits, poor product storage methods and lack of manual handling training can lead to accident and injury if not controlled. This can reduce productivity, increase illness absence, and lead to unnecessary costs for employers. It’s also vital that employers recognise that the regulation governing the use of work equipment and hand tools does apply to retail workers operating electronic point of sale machines to complete transactions, climbing on stools and step ladders to reach shelves or using knife blades to open boxes, as harmless as these activities may seem.

In recognition of the different challenges retailers may face, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has made it easier for small retail businesses to evaluate the dangers employees are exposed to by creating a shop risk assessment tool.

The tool helps employers in lower-risk retail environments to create a tailored assessment, focusing on the hazards to their workforce and how they might be addressed. It covers the most common causes of injury in the retail workplace, such as tripping hazards and falling objects as well as repetitive strain injury and musculoskeletal injury. It also asks retail employers to consider workplace transport, the potential for high or low temperatures, the use of electrical equipment, timing of breaks and the presence of any flammable stock.

For larger retail organisations, the emphasis is on establishing best practice across all sites. This can be problematic where premises are spread over different local authority areas but has been made simpler by the Better Regulation Delivery Office’s (BRDO) Primary Authority scheme. The scheme gives a business the right to form a statutory partnership with a single local authority. This helps to ensure that a consistent approach to health and safety regulation can be ensured across the entire business.

The ongoing problem of trips and slips

Trips and slips remain the single most common cause of major injury in the retail workplace. Most accidents occur when spills are not cleaned up or when floors remain wet and slippery after cleaning. For a large retailer, a single slip could cost £15K or more. The HSE provides special guidelines* for preventing slips and trips in retail.

The dangers of violence and lone working

Violence against retail workers is unfortunately a growing problem and one which many employers are obliged to factor into their health and safety assessments. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) reports** that 13 retail workers are injured every single day and that the rate of reported violence with injury has doubled over a year to 6 per 1,000 workers. This is not only a concerning statistic, it also highlights the additional cost that crime creates for retail businesses, who must also deal with customer theft. In fact, the BRC estimates that crime is now costing the retail sector more than £700 million each year.

For retailers, tackling the risk of violence is a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act in the same way as dealing with any other possible cause of harm in the workplace. Whether physical or verbal, violence can have a long-term impact on both employees and the businesses they work for, causing issues such as high staff turnover, work-related stress, and a damaged business reputation – and risks are often higher in licensed premises, where there are younger workers or where workers spend time alone on the premises, particularly at night.

Violence against workers can be another unpredictable area where employers may feel as if the protection they can provide is limited. However, there are clear guidelines available and sensible steps which can be taken to lessen the risk of violence. These include the provision of conflict management training for employees, thinking about shift patterns to avoid lone working at times of highest risk and installing extra security measures where appropriate.

Reporting of in-store is an important of health and safety within the retail environment. To learn more about how we helped Debenhams deploy a bespoke in-store incident reporting system, read our case study here.

*To read the HSE special guidelines for preventing slips and trips in retail, click here.

**Download the full 2017 retail crime survey from The British Retail Consortium (BRC) here.

A Route to Better Rail Safety

A Route to Better Rail Safety
The UK’s rail network has a safety track record to be proud of…

The latest annual report from the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) tells us that Britain’s railways remain the safest of the top 10 biggest railway systems in the EU. While this is brilliant news, the rail industry can never afford to be complacent on health and safety. There is always room for improvement and even one incident can change the shape of things dramatically. So, while Network Rail report that track worker safety has improved in recent years: there have been six fatalities in the past nine years compared to 25 in the previous 9, it’s crucial to remember that even one death is too many. Every worker has the right to return home safely and without injury after their shift ends.

High numbers of near-misses

Despite regulation by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) and the standards set by the RSSB, Simon French, chief inspector for the government’s Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), has issued a spate of warnings recently that the rail industry is failing to tackle some of its important safety issues effectively. This includes high number of ‘close calls’ and workers often having no clarity on who is in charge on site.

The warnings come after the death of a rail worker in Purley, South London during 2018 and unfortunately were not heeded in time to prevent the deaths of two more rail workers in South Wales during June 2019. In this latter case, it is thought that the workers were wearing ear defenders and may not have heard the approach of the passenger train which caused their deaths. The incidents were both avoidable through straightforward health and safety measures and employer Network Rail has now responded to pressure from ORR and union bodies to step up their efforts to safeguard the people who maintain and repair their tracks.

Network Rail has pledged investment of £70m in a new safety initiative and task force, which will accelerate its existing Near Miss Reduction Programme and attempt to eliminate fatalities for those working on or near their track system. The task force will be responsible for a broad range of new measures, including the implementation of advancements in technology and warning systems for safer trackside working, better monitoring of contractor training and competencies, a ‘procuring for safety’ programme to encourage and reward contractors for safe practices, a medical standards project, and better risk management processes. There will also be new measures for managing fatigue and improving mental wellbeing both major contributors to raised overall health and safety standards in the workplace.

It is thought that the South London worker who lost their life was not only put at risk by the failure of a fellow contractor to arrive for work but was also on a zero-hours contract and likely to be suffering from fatigue – and the topic has also received particular attention in the RSSB’s report. The investigation is ongoing, but one thing is clear: while fatalities are falling, the number of near misses remains unacceptably high. It’s time for employers and employees across the sector to take a fresh look at their own health and safety measures, particularly where there are high number of contractors and it may be more difficult to have a clear oversight of their skills and training.

Taking action

As in every UK employment scenario, rail industry employers have a duty to their employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Failure to fulfil that duty can not only have negative impact on productivity, profitability and reputation; it can also mean that employers lose valuable team members and face costly penalties. While the duty of a rail business as an employer is the same as in any other industry, the high-risk nature of railways work means that it requires specialised enforcement focus. This duty is now separately overseen by the ORR rather than the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), thanks to powers handed over by the Health and Safety (Enforcing Authority for Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems) Regulations 2006 (EARR). Since taking responsibility back in 2006, the ORR have issued penalties ranging between £65K and £4m for breaches of health and safety regulations.

According to the ORR, one regularly occurring factor when accidents occur and the employer is found responsible, is that inadequate measures had been taken to plan safe systems of work or properly assess risk*. Thankfully, this is one area in which help is available to take effective action. We can help you review and revise current processes to ensure they are carefully aligned with SSIP, as well as providing unique insights into the health and safety culture that exists right across your organisation. Yours is a complex business and you want to make sure the people you are responsible for are fully skilled, properly trained and safely managed.  We can make safe procurement easier, reducing the load on your internal teams and keeping paperwork to a minimum.

*For more information on health and safety from the ORR click here.

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