Constructing a plan to defeat modern slavery: An interview with Chris Harrop, Marshalls

By Jack Kelly

We discussed with Chris Harrop, Group Marketing Director & Director of Sustainability at Marshalls, the principles, practices and results of the company when faced with the issue of modern slavery. Marshalls PLC supplies natural stone and landscaping products.

Ways to combat modern slavery

Chris considers that one way to nullify any challenges is to establish a strategic partnership with your supply chains. He says ‘it is absolutely essential to know what is happening on the ground’. This allows both parties to create a shared vision and evaluate for areas of improvement and/or decision-making. For instance, there could be discussions that try to determine how products should be manufactured, what sources have they come from and this is concerned with health and safety procedures. These in-depth conversations facilitate not only a co-operative relationship, but also a business ethical standpoint. For high-risk areas, Marshalls adopts a strategic partnership with their suppliers in order to co-operate on various matters. Chris claims that this has paid ‘huge dividends’ over the years.

Once more, Chris demonstrated that these close relationships could bring success. After harbouring a long relationship with a partner in India, Marshalls have been able to tackle worldwide issues like child labour and reducing carbon footprint. These relationships identify possible cultural sensitivities and allow the sharing of responsibility. For instance, English companies do not govern operations in India. Both parties outline the importance of sustainability across a wide range of matters including building equipment used, the transportation of goods and shipping routes.

How can we improve?

Chris noted that they have worked with anti-slavery partners in countries such as Vietnam. Although he does reflect that knowing the capabilities and the capacity of such a partner is crucial. If a partner’s capacity is limited, then the programme they are working on becomes limited. For example, a Non- Profit Organisation (NGO) can have decent capabilities and, in terms of modern slavery, are good at assessing and rescuing people from those working conditions, but their capacity could only be two a week. Most supply chains expect you to do more.  The predicted numbers of people in slavery completely outweigh their capacity and so the process becomes redundant.

In his final comments, Chris outlined what he hoped to achieve from the summit later this year. He would like to see a drive for organisations to hold individuals or groups from their supply chains accountable. Also, Chris asserted the importance of the message about modern slavery. If an organisation has followed the rules and discovered elements of modern slavery then they should not be represented as abusers of the system.


Photo credit: Chris Harrop

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