Labour is the party of business. While the Conservatives have been playing havoc with the economy and pandering to narrow, nationalist interests, Labour has earned the confidence of industry through competent and credible policy stances and a commitment to engaging with business leaders. Labour now has the opportunity to make the UK a world leader in ethical and sustainable business.
Whether manufactured by people working in conditions of forced labour or made with resources gathered through unsustainable and damaging means, many of the products we use have a harmful footprint. It is wrong that UK business funds exploitative labour and damaging environmental practices, whether knowingly or not.
Fifty million people globally are estimated to be living in modern slavery. Powerful countries like China are credibly considered to employ state-backed forced labour programmes. Meanwhile, the world's 3,000 largest corporations cause over 2.2 trillion dollars in environmental damage annually. The UK cannot stand by and allow these abuses to continue.
Labour has already committed to examining the best way to prevent environmental harms and human rights abuses in supply chains. The most robust way to do so will be through rigorous primary legislation:
- We are calling on the Labour Party to commit to a Business, Human Rights and Environment Bill to legally compel business to identify and mitigate human rights and environmental abuses within their supply chains.
These measures have strong support from civil society, trade unions, businesses themselves and, crucially, the UK public, with 4 in 5 people polled supporting measures – including legislation – to prevent the exploitation of people in supply chains. Campaigns for such a Bill have garnered substantive backing from members of the public.
The British Retail Consortium, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and many other UK businesses and investors have publicly backed calls for new primary legislation mandating companies to carry out human rights and environmental due diligence. Far from being a measure that will hamper business and stifle competitiveness, a new Bill will level the playing field for British business.
As well as this, a number of European countries have adopted or considered legislation enshrining human rights due diligence into law. To maintain its competitiveness across the continent, the UK must ensure it is ahead of the curve on this issue, not left behind.
Labour has a long and proud tradition of championing human rights in the UK. By making sure that UK business is ethical business, we can build on this legacy even further.