By Andy Davies
Director, London Universities Purchasing Consortium
The UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights is currently conducting an inquiry on human rights and business. London Universities Purchasing Consortium (LUPC) is a non-profit professional buying organisation, owned by its members for its members, that aims to secure the best possible value in the acquisition of goods and services, without causing harm to others.
We at LUPC submitted our written evidence this month. We welcomed the UK Government’s updated National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP) through which it has re-iterated its commitment to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the expectation that UK plc should be undertaking human rights due diligence. But in our view, the Government’s updated NAP has missed an opportunity to use its leverage with businesses to scale up the practice of human rights due diligence, by employing public procurement as a powerful instrument of social change.
We made five recommendations that, if implemented, would enable the UK Government to fulfill its obligations under Principle 6 of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Firstly, we encouraged the UK Government to develop a capability in due diligence and risk assessment among public procurement practitioners as part of their standard skill-set. With guidance and training, UK public bodies should be able to identify higher risk spend categories and source countries where human rights abuses are known to be prevalent. By working in collaboration with each other and with their suppliers, public bodies can then conduct supply chain mapping exercises, supplemented by supplier and factory audits to highlight where steps can be taken to mitigate risks of modern slavery, human trafficking, forced and bonded labour and other human rights abuses.
We urged the UK Government to pass the necessary legislation to create a similar requirement to that established for companies in the Transparency in the Supply Chain clause of the MSA for Government and wider public sector procurement.
We also proposed the establishment and development of a UK Government-managed on-line database where information about higher-risk spend categories, source countries, suppliers and factories can be gathered, catalogued and shared, such as audit and media reports, supplier statements, and evidence of action taken to address particular issues or mitigate risk.
We strongly urged the UK Government to prioritise making human rights due diligence a requirement for those companies awarded significant public sector contracts.
Finally, we Invited the UK Government to consider establishing mandatory requirements for companies to undertake effective human rights due diligence in order to access all public sector contracts.
We look forward to the outcome of the Inquiry.