Launched in 2016, The Stop Slavery Hotel Industry Network brings together various stakeholders within the industry to address modern slavery. The Network stems from the acknowledgment that all actors within the industry, whether international brands, independent owners, or management companies, are responsible for combatting this crime. We spoke to the programme’s strategy lead Nishma Jethwa about why it is needed and how it is growing.
JEREMY: What made you decide to launch this initiative?
NISHMA: We feel that anyone that claims to be running a responsible business must look at modern slavery and how it relates to their industry. The Modern Slavery Act encourages just this through its transparency in supply chains clause and the UK Independent Anti Slavery Commissioner has also made private sector engagement a priority.
At Shiva Foundation, we are working closely with Shiva Hotels to understand the different ways in which modern slavery might rear its head and ensure that we have clear, actionable and impactful strategies in place to tackle those risks. We are doing this through a Shiva Hotels Stop Slavery Blueprint. This is currently being piloted in one of the Shiva hotels and will, hopefully, be rolled out across the whole group by the end of the year. To complement this we are working closely with others in the industry through the Stop Slavery Hotel Industry Network to ensure that we are doing everything we can as a sector.
Jeremy: How is the pilot going?
Nishma: The pilot is going well. We have trained all the staff at the hotel with an initial awareness raising workshop and online e-training. We are in the process of training our procurement teams on supply-chain specific issues and will be testing knowledge retention and confidence in the protocols in due course. We are also starting to reach out to our tier one suppliers to better understand their response to the issue and how we might assist in improving standards across the board. Something else unique we are doing is displaying our commitment not only in the lobby of the hotel but across TVs in all the rooms themselves in a bid to raise awareness and vigilance among guests. We hope that by engaging as many relevant stakeholders as possible, we can build a robust system that identifies and responds effectively to modern slavery risks.
I think one of the most important things we have learnt is that this is a process and we must give businesses time and support to put the relevant policies, protocols and trainings in place. There is no silver bullet, especially when it comes to complex and international businesses. The hotel team is learning new things every day and need the time to implement those learnings in collaboration with us. We’re also very grateful to be part of the Stop Slavery Hotel Industry Network, which we launched last year, as it allows us to share best practice and challenges with a much wider group. We hope this in itself will catalyse a step change in the hotel and hospitality industry.
Jeremy: How have guests responded to your initiative?
Nishma: We have had some guests engage with the statement (which needs to be clicked on to view fully) and some who have asked our front of house staff about the issue. Our front of house teams are equipped to share further information and point guests to further resources like the Modern Slavery Helpline (if they notice something questionable), Anti Slavery International (to find out more about the signs) or Shiva Foundation (to learn more about taking action). We hope, over time, to encourage guests to make a socially conscious choice when choosing their hotels (and other goods and services), in the same way they have started to do with Fair Trade goods.
Jeremy: What can hotels do to take responsibility for their complex supply chains and to eliminate slavery at any point along them?
Nishma: Engagement and support are key for tackling what are often lengthy and complex supply chains in the industry. This position is informed from our own supplier engagement and discussions with other hotels doing similar work. This journey is relatively new to many organisations and it’s important to have meaningful conversations rather than demanding specific criteria. That way you can discuss openly what is working, what further support might be required (i.e. training) and whether there are opportunities to share best practice. It is also important to note that this is a journey. We have to look at supply chains step-by-step, from one tier to the next, as otherwise it can seem like an insurmountable task.
Jeremy: Your website talks about challenging the “bottom line v CSR” mentality. How does that apply to efforts to tackle modern slavery in hotels?
Nishma: We believe that it is vital that organisations don’t see tackling modern slavery as an antithesis to making a profit. And we hope that by our work with Shiva Hotels, we can share our learning and show that these systemic changes can be made at minimal cost. And as people become increasingly ethically guided in their consumer choices, in the longer term having a holistic approach to ethics, it might in fact increase profits.
Additionally, while every initiative that counters modern slavery is worthwhile, we believe that business has the opportunity to make a strong and lasting impact in their own backyard. It seems incongruous to have a CSR department that does work completely detached of the business and doesn’t take the opportunity to leverage the skills and industry for meaningful change. Shiva Foundation wanted to start tackling modern slavery in its own backyard by looking within the hotel industry.
Jeremy: How is the Stop Slavery Hotel Industry Network developing? is it being widely supported in the industry?
Nishma: The Network held its first membership meeting in February during which it set its priorities for the year, working towards an industry standard and a modern slavery resource hub. We are very pleased with the support so far. We have a range of representatives including brands, owners, management companies and independent hotels involved. Over the next few months, we hope to engage with other types of hotels as well as employment agencies and representatives from the construction industry. The Network also works in tandem with the International Tourism Partnership working group, which focuses on the broader human rights issues facing the industry, and the British Hospitality Association, which has a membership of over 40,000 across the hotel and hospitality sector.
Jeremy: What do you feel needs to happen to get the wider industry to fully buy in to these efforts?
Nishma: I think to get the wider industry really bought into this work, there are two main things to consider. Firstly, it’s about awareness and education – making sure that the individuals who have the power to change how things are done are aware that modern slavery is something that exists and something that they should care about. Secondly, it’s about Shiva Foundation building trust by following through with both the Blueprint and the Network in a way that sees meaningful change happen, and happen in a way that is tailored to take the complexity of the industry into account.
If you have any further questions or expressions of interest about the Network please send them to its Senior Programme Manager, Sian Lea.