Co-op Group receives top global award for initiatives in tackling modern slavery

Judges say the co-op is 'best in class' for its engagement with suppliers and victims of modern slavery

The Stop Slavery Award has been awarded to the Co-op Group for its work in tackling modern slavery.

Launched by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the award “recognises companies that have taken concrete steps to eradicate forced labour from their supply chains”.

The Stop Slavery Award gives public recognition to corporations that are ‘best in class’ at demonstrating integrity, courage and innovation in cleaning their supply chains. The Group was one of four winners, alongside Adidas, Intel and C&A. Others shortlisted include M&S, Barclays and Aviva.

The Group was praised for the engagement of its suppliers and partners on modern slavery within its supply chain management. It was also recognised for its Bright Future programme, which offers training and paid employment for slavery and trafficking victims. Since it was launched almost a year ago, 30 people have either completed or are going through the programme.

As well as the practical help the Co-op is offering survivors, it is also campaigning to extend protection for modern slavery survivors from 45 days to a year and working with partners, suppliers and the media to raise awareness of the horror of modern slavery, and help people spot signs of slavery and raise standards in their own supply chains.

Monique Villa, chief executive of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, presented the award at its Trust Conference in London, to Pippa Wicks, the Group’s deputy chief executive.

Ms Villa said the Group “excelled in the business partnership engagement category” through “supplier engagement and capacity building”. She added: “This company stood out for its support to victims of modern slavery through its Bright Future programme. This is remarkable, they receive a paid work placement and this will culminate with a job offer if candidates perform well. It is totally in line with what we try to achieve at the Trust conference. So I hope that other businesses will recognise the potential of this model to provide employment opportunities for victims of slavery and will replicate this fantastic initiative.”

In accepting the award for the Group, Ms Wicks said: “We want to go further than our own supply chains in tackling modern slavery. This heinous crime will only be stopped by government, businesses and society working together and by creating employment opportunities we can ensure victims stay out of the evil clutches of their captors.”

Related: How the Co-op is working to prevent modern slavery across supply chains

Paul Gerrard, group policy and campaigns director, said: “The Stop Slavery award is a prestigious one, as it gives members and shoppers the confidence that we’re doing everything we can to stamp out slavery.

“Modern Slavery’s getting a lot of attention from the media and the government right now, as it was estimated that around 25 million people globally were trapped in forced labour in 2016.

“Sadly, there are no quick fixes – as with any criminal activity it’s underground, hidden and victims are intimidated into silence. But by working together with law enforcement, other retailers and suppliers, charities and the media we can help stamp out this shameful crime as well as help the survivors.

“Our Co-op’s in this fight for the long haul, and it’s a group-wide effort as everyone has a part to play. Our colleagues are most likely to spot the signs someone in their team is in slavery; our finance, audit and procurement teams make sure those we work with have our own high standards, and our communications and campaigns teams keep slavery on the public and media agenda. This award belongs to us all, so thank you and congratulations.”

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