Identifying and managing modern slavery in the construction industry 

Modern Slavery is the illegal exploitation of people for personal or commercial gain. Borne out of greed, mismanagement and inequitable power structures, it has taken hold in many of the world’s leading industries, including construction. Modern slavery within the construction sector is rife and accounts for 18% of global forced labour cases. This suggests that construction workers around the world may be facing abhorrent working conditions, denied their rights, and working for little or no remuneration. 

Why is the construction industry particularly vulnerable to modern slavery risk? 

There are several reasons why the construction sector is particularly at risk of modern slavery. Historically, these have included:  

  • High levels of subcontracting and agency work leading to multi-tiered, invisible supply chain arrangements;
  • Popularity with migrant workers paired with a conflation of immigration-checks as modern slavery monitoring; 
  • Slow and unconvincing adoption of incoming modern slavery legislation at an industry level; perhaps due to tight project deadlines and cost issues. 

Legislation is, however, becoming more widespread and strictly enforced. Germany recently followed Australia and the UK by adopting a new Due Diligence Act, signalling that major governments will no longer accept irresponsibility on human rights issues. 

This could mean sweeping operational changes throughout all levels of the value chain, not simply due to the risk of legislative repercussions, including fines and exclusion from public procurement, but reputational damage incurring the loss of business. 

Due Diligence: Preventing modern slavery risk in construction supply chains 

As far as legislative compliance is concerned, businesses must implement an ongoing supply chain monitoring process, ensuring regular monitoring and swift handling of any developments in the supply chain risk profile. Such tailor-made due-diligence arrangements enable meaningful and confident reporting in keeping with legislative stipulations. 

Good modern slavery governance is wider than this, however. Best practice involves leading the value chain with CEO commitment to high standards of human rights. Suggestive or even required levels of human rights performance targets throughout the procurement process are also effective for demonstrating modern slavery leadership. 

But even with these structures in place, risk factors may still prevail. If your business uncovers modern slavery risks through any internal risk-management processes, communication with senior managers must be transparent so that informed, decisive, and legally sound decisions can be made.  

This enables positive action and displays a concerted compliance-minded message to stakeholders and industry members. Presenting this firm position against human rights violations will continue to gain as an area set for industry competition. 

How ethiXbase can help 

Our holistic end to end third-party risk management platform has proven itself as a world-class leading solution for understanding and managing supply chain risks across a spectrum of industries and risk categories.  

A key capability of this solution is the modern slavery risk management component, suited specifically to risks faced by the construction industry. In collaboration with global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, our expertise will help you elevate your standards of sustainability throughout your supply chain. 

For more information or to request a free demo, please get in touch at

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