A group of leading hoteliers has this week launched a new network to address the challenges of modern slavery where it occurs in hotels in the UK.
The Stop Slavery Hotel Industry Network, which is led by the Shiva Foundation and was unveiled on Wednesday at the annual Trust Women Conference in London, is designed to help the hospitalty industry address risks in their facilities, employment practices and supply chains. The initial areas of action and focus are currently being decided by the group.
However, at a roundtable conducted in November, three key issues emerged. First, ethical recruitment: The layered structure of many hotel companies – which often involves brands franchising properties – combined with multi-tier recruitment systems, can make unscrupulous practices difficult to detect. The network hopes that a joint approach might facilitate identifying and preventing such practices. Secondly, sexual exploitation: Hotels can unknowingly be used by criminals to traffic victims for sexual exploitation. Through training and awareness-raising amongst staff and guest, the industry can help identify and prevent these crimes while ensuring the safety of staff and guests. And thirdly, responsible supply chains: Hotels purchase a vast range of goods and services. Some of these, for example food and cotton, also represent industries where workers rights and welfare can be at risk. By developing a network wide approach, the hospitality industry can help improve standards and checks throughout the chain.
The Shiva Foundation was launched in 2012 by the founders of the Shiva Hotels chain, Rishi Sachdev and his wife Meenal Sachdev. It works to prevent human trafficking and slavery in the UK. It has already developed a blueprint to minimise the risk of modern slavery, which is currently being piloted at a London hotel managed by Shiva Hotels.
As part of the pilot project, Shiva Hotels’ statement on trafficking available on each of the 260 televisions in guests’ rooms and hotel staff are receiving practical guidance on how to spot and report concerns, as well as steps to identify potential risks in supply chains. “Modern slavery is an urgent issue that affects thousands of people across the UK, said Meenal Sachdev, Founder and Director of Shiva Foundation. “As a major business sector involving millions of people, the hotel industry has a real opportunity to help prevent these crimes. While there has been much good work across the hotelsector to date, there hasn’t yet been a unifying scheme to bring this together. By sharing knowledge and expertise through this network, we can ensure that best practice is spread more quickly, helping ensure the safety and livelihoods of those who may be at risk. The potential of this network is huge, and we look forward to leading its expansion.”
The network’s founding members are Shiva Hotels, Hilton and Bespoke Hotels. With more groups set to join, it will look to work collaboratively to develop and test methods that can be shared throughout the hotel and hospitality sector. The International Tourism Partnership is supporting the scheme, using its experience working with hotel networks on global sustainability initiatives such as the Hotel Carbon Management Initiative and Hotel Water Management Initiative to enable the scheme to scale internationally by synchronising with corporate policies beyond the UK. In addition, the British Hospitality Association has endorsed the scheme and will support its expansion throughout the hotel sector.