Modern slavery statement

Modern slavery is an abhorrent abuse of human rights, and includes practices such as forced labour, debt bondage, human trafficking and child labour.

VSO has a zero-tolerance approach to modern slavery and in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7, is committed to ensuring that there are no instances of modern slavery or human trafficking occurring within our global organisation or our supply chains.

VSO is committed to the ethical treatment of suppliers and partners and is in adherence with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Standards, the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and the UN Global Compact.

VSO recognises that focusing on tackling modern slavery not only protects vulnerable workers, but also helps to prevent and remedy severe human rights violations.

VSO is focused on ethical and responsible business practice in our global supply chains and will continue to learn, review and adapt our processes to ensure best practice.

In keeping with VSO’s vision of a fair world for everyone, wherever possible we source goods and services locally in the countries we operate. Our supplier base is broad and diverse and is comprised of organisations best able to meet our requirements. If an existing supplier were to be suspected of having links to involvement in modern slavery, interaction with that supplier would immediately cease.

VSO operates several policies that assist in the prevention of slavery and human trafficking in our operations:

  • Whistleblowing Policy: VSO encourages all its employees, workers, agency workers, volunteers, partner organisations, donors, suppliers and other business partners to report any concerns related to our direct activities and our supply chains without fear of retaliation.
  • Global Code of Conduct: VSO strives to maintain the highest standards of conduct and ethical behaviour when operating abroad and managing its supply chain. All VSO employees and volunteers must abide by the Global Code of Conduct.
  • Global People Resourcing Policy: background and suitability checks are conducted for all VSO staff prior to commencing work. As part of VSO’s onboarding process, all staff are required to provide proof of their identity and their right to work in the country in which they are hired.
  • Global Procurement Policy: requires all staff and volunteers, regardless of their role and for all procurement whatever the value, to follow the procurement principles of fairness, transparency, ethical behaviour, compliance and value for money. The Policy also states ‘Procurement activity must not support organisations involved in criminal activity such as fraud, corruption, forced labour (modern slavery) and other human rights abuses.’ The Procurement Policy demands that whoever is involved in procurement must also refer and adhere to our other relevant Core Policies.

VSO expects suppliers to be ethical in the treatment of their workers and suppliers: working conditions and relationships should not involve abuse or exploitation, workers and suppliers should be paid fair wages, and on time. Before contracts are awarded, due diligence checks are done on suppliers. Due diligence is carried out at country office level and includes, but is not limited to, numerous sanctions list checks (which contains names of individuals or organisations who are known to be involved in financing crime or terrorism), reference checks and site visits where appropriate.

VSO staff are reminded that they must be vigilant and aware of the possibility of human rights abuses such as modern slavery taking place in suppliers’ businesses and supply chains. Any concerns regarding suspected modern slavery practices are required to be reported internally.

When making purchasing choices, VSO strives to purchase from organisations which have similar visions and values to its own. Gender equality and inclusion are cross-cutting for all VSO’s programmes and suppliers that promote these values (e.g. women-owned enterprises, organisations providing employment opportunities to marginalised groups such as individuals with disabilities) are invited to bid where possible.

VSO is an accredited Living Wage employer, which means that VSO staff and suppliers who provide services to VSO are paid a living wage in the UK.

Training to heighten awareness of modern slavery and how to report it is incorporated into our criminal practices awareness training, which is mandatory for all VSO people as part of their induction.

About this statement

This statement is made pursuant to section 54(1) of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and constitutes VSO’s slavery and human trafficking statement for the financial year 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020. It was approved by the Board on 22 October 2020.

The statement is reviewed annually by the Board.