Modern Slavery and JLL: Building a Better Tomorrow

By Jack Kelly.

Slavery is nearly as old as time itself. Its history still lives with us to this day; in our workplace, our buildings and our own homes. If we explore in more detail about buildings’ relevance to slavery, we find some dark truths. For instance, the Pyramids of Egypt were built at the expense of human rights.  We spoke to Richard Batten, EMEA Board Member and Global Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer at JLL and his colleague, Claire Handley, Director Global Legal Compliance, to provide us with some insight into how JLL tackles the widespread issue of modern slavery.

So how is the construction industry tackling slavery in the modern world?

Richard and Claire agreed that businesses have an important role to play. They insisted that it was corporate responsibility to study the ‘ground-level’ when dealing with modern slavery. Companies need to remain in regular contact with their suppliers to establish key partnership principles and to prevent human rights abuses. JLL has a zero tolerance policy for modern slavery. It is currently implementing its own corporate policy addressing anti-slavery and human trafficking. This policy will apply to all JLL employees, suppliers and to other associates in the UK and worldwide. Although, Claire acknowledges that this is one of the company’s biggest challenges since their supply chains are vast and complex.  Being consistently attentive to every single supply chain proves to be difficult.

In construction terms, are the policies and legislation just papering over cracks?

JLL delegates responsibility to their clients by ensuring that they have received full training. This includes demonstrating self- awareness about the practices of the supply chains, performing risk assessments and educating workers on the signs of modern slavery. However, JLL requires evidence from suppliers to see that standards are met.

Once more, JLL use auditors to ensure legal compliance. JLL investigates any potential wrongdoing or inconsistencies.  Richard considers how JLL’s internal modern slavery programs can inspire an awareness of the issue and encourage others to follow basic human rights principles. The drive to implement company policy is complimented by an alternative program, ‘Ethics Everywhere’. This is concerned with the training of workers in high-risk geographical locations. For example, areas in Asia or the Middle East use this system also.

If we have learnt anything from history, then this problem will fail to fade away unless we take some serious action.


Photo credit: Ryan’s Theme Park Adventures, Flickr

Found the article of interest? Then take a look at the upcoming Modern Slavery & Human Rights in Supply Chain Conference here.