The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

Five Social Sustainability Questions Every Business Must Ask Their Supply Chains

Five Social Sustainability Questions Every Business Must Ask Their Supply Chains
28 May 2024

Ensuring a commitment to health and safety is a well-established practice. But companies are increasingly being held accountable for their suppliers' sustainability practices. 

Alex Minett, Global Head of New Markets at Veriforce CHAS, outlines how this shift makes robust prequalification processes and social sustainability assessments essential.

Alex has extensive knowledge of construction best practices and compliance having worked on iconic projects such as the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics and the Battersea Power Station where he advised on safety measures for the demolition and re-erection of the four iconic chimneys. Alex has also worked closely with the World Bank on one of the world’s largest solar farms in Benban and initiated a zero-harm approach to safety at the Facebook Data Centre in Lulea.


History of Supply Chain Pre-Qualification in the UK


The concept of supply chain pre-qualification has a storied history in the UK, evolving significantly over the past few decades. Initially, the focus was mainly on ensuring contractors met basic health and safety standards. This led to the introduction of schemes such as the Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS) in 1997. CHAS was developed to provide a standardised method of prequalifying suppliers and contractors, ensuring they complied with essential health and safety regulations. The scheme helped to mitigate risks on construction sites and established a baseline for contractor competence and reliability. 

In recent years, the scope of supply chain assessments has expanded beyond health and safety to encompass a broader range of issues with a strong focus on social sustainability – the impact that businesses and their supply chains have on people and communities. This includes working practices, human rights, community engagement, and ethical sourcing. The increasing awareness of corporate social responsibility (CSR), the rise of socially conscious consumers and the risk of reputational damage have driven companies to ensure that their supply chains reflect their values and commitments to social sustainability.


Questions to Ask Your Supply Chains About Social Sustainability


To determine whether your supply chain is truly committed to social sustainability, and how that commitment translates to actions, it's essential to ask the right questions. These could include:


  1. Social Value: What practices does your business have in place to drive a positive social impact on the people and community it engages?
  2. Labour Exploitation: How does your company prevent workforce exploitation, ranging from preventing Modern Slavery to withheld holiday pay, across your supply chain?
  3. Equality, Diversity & Inclusion: How does your business work to attract talent from a hard-to-reach groups and ensures it retains diverse talent?
  4. Procurement & Supply Chain Management: How does your business assess, monitor and develop your supply chain to ensure it is a sustainable business?
  5. Health & Wellbeing: What is your business doing to better understand and support the needs of your workforce to create a healthier and happier working life?


How Contractors Can Answer These Questions


Contractors can prepare for these questions by implementing and documenting robust social sustainability practices. Examples of responses might include:


  1. Social Value: Show a broad range of activities that drive Social Value but most importantly demonstrate proper governance for what you are doing. This includes training employees, measuring your impact, setting a strategy that enables your company to make the greatest impact, and continually monitoring and improving practices. 
  2. Labour Exploitation: Show that you understand different types of exploitation risk within your operation and that you understand the supply chain that is bringing people to work on your behalf (employees, temporary labour and workers via subcontractors). Once this is established, present how you are mitigating exploitation risk for workers coming via these routes. For example, are you assessing your subcontractors for employment and temporary labour practices? Most companies have controls for employees but very little for temporary workers. 
  3. Equality, Diversity & Inclusion: Show that your business is actively executing against your policy and that you are measuring what you are doing through diversity metrics. Can your business demonstrate an awareness that promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion positively impacts your overall success and that you are committed to ongoing development in these areas? This may be through identifying an aging workforce in certain areas and executing activities to encourage new young talent or ensuring that company initiatives cover a broad range of activities to try and cater for everyone. 
  4. Procurement and Supply Chain Management: Demonstrate that you have an invested interest to drive the same business values you adopt through your supply chain by understanding the practices they have in place and how you aim to help them develop. Demonstrate how your procurement and supply chain practices are encouraging businesses to operate more sustainably. This may be through scoring tenders on sustainability factors or including sustainability factors into performance reviews. 
  5. Health & Wellbeing: Showcase your business's commitment to a healthy and happy workforce through initiatives and governance practices that enhance and manage wellbeing. This can include activities such as offering benefits, promoting mental health awareness and support, providing flexible hours, and implementing reward schemes. Regularly surveying your workforce and monitoring the impact of these activities exemplifies a strategic approach to health and wellbeing initiatives.


The landscape of supply chain management is evolving to prioritise not just health and safety, but also social sustainability. By asking the right questions and embracing independent verification, companies can ensure their supply chains are not only efficient and safe but also ethically and socially responsible. This holistic approach not only protects the company’s reputation but also enhances its long-term commercial success and contributes to a more sustainable and equitable world. 

Picture: a photograph of a chalkboard with a question mark drawn on it in white chalk. Image Credit: Pexels

Article written by Alex Minett | Published 28 May 2024


Related Articles

Ten Ways To Mitigate Supply Chain Risk in 2021

CHAS, the supply chain risk management expert, highlights ten ways to mitigate supply chain risk in 2021. The Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS) is...

 Read Full Article
Cabinet Office Launches New Benchmark for Public Procurement

Changes to the public procurement process means all contracting authorities must specify a new standard for their supply chains and contractors. From 27 June 2024, the...

 Read Full Article
CHAS to Lobby Government on Mental Health Provision in Construction Contract Procurement

CHAS is supporting a political lobbying campaign calling for mental health provision to be part of the Health and Safety and Social Value procurement conditions for...

 Read Full Article
Almost £100m Spent With Social Enterprises in Buy Social Corporate Challenge

A project supported by FM and commercial property companies such as Amey, CBRE, Compass, Equans, Mitie, Wates Group and Willmott Dixon has hit a £99 million...

 Read Full Article
Modern Slavery Rules Changing from 1 April 2023

Updated guidance on identifying and managing the risk of modern slavery in supply chains will soon apply. Alex Minett from CHAS looks at what’s changed and...

 Read Full Article
Predictions for Supply Chain Issues in 2023

Alex Minett from CHAS, the supply chain risk management company, looks at seven issues that will affect supply chains in 2023.  The last year has been challenging...

 Read Full Article
Mitie, Compass and Wates Group Among FM Firms to Support Buy Social Corporate Challenge

30 UK businesses have spent £250 million procuring services and products from social enterprises and helped create 2,700 jobs in an ongoing programme from Social...

 Read Full Article
Spotlight Interview – Helen Carter | Action Sustainability – Modern Slavery in FM

Modern slavery and forced labour have a huge presence within facilities management, its supply chain and the wider built environment. ThisWeekinFM spoke to Helen...

 Read Full Article
Alcumus Reveals Initial Findings From 'Risk Barometer'

70 per cent of respondents to Alcumus’ “Risk Barometer” say that they have been negatively impacted by a supplier in the last year. As supply chain...

 Read Full Article
Why is Sustainable FM Procurement Such a Challenge?

FM procurement is known for being variable and complex, so how can sustainable practices be improved in this area?   Watch the...

 Read Full Article