Modern slavery is a serious but often unreported issue for the hotel industry. Rishi Sachdev, Co-Founder of Shiva Foundation and Director of Shiva Hotels, outlines his plan to help create an industry-wide model to tackle modern slavery – starting with an Anti-Trafficking Charter currently being piloted at one of Shiva’s London hotels.
Across our industry, from budget to five star hotels, trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced labour are very real concerns that affect the whole sector. However, the hidden and distasteful nature of these crimes means that the scale of the problem is often underreported or undetected.
Victims of modern slavery who have been forced to work by coercion or fraud may be unaware that their treatment is illegal. Those who are aware may be unable to report their situation for risk of deportation, as this harrowing account of a Bangladeshi man who became enslaved in a remote Scottish hotel details. In addition, multi-tier recruitment systems can mean that forced labour is very difficult to spot. All of this means that precise figures on the extent of modern slavery can be hard to come by. For example, the National Crime Agency suggests that four percent of sexual exploitation in 2013 took place in hotels, but the organisation acknowledges that the real number is likely to be far higher.
Distressed by the issues of human trafficking and modern slavery, and seeing that not enough was being done in our sector to tackle it, my wife Meenal and I founded Shiva Foundation in 2012 to help raise awareness and combat the problem. Shiva Foundation is funded by Shiva Hotels and works closely in partnership with individuals, businesses and communities to educate people on the context of human trafficking, and builds practical solutions to prevent it. We are now developing and testing methods to be shared throughout the hotel and hospitality sector.
Central to this is the pilot of our Anti-Trafficking Charter at the DoubleTree by Hilton London ExCel, one of the properties managed by Shiva Hotels. The Anti-Trafficking Charter, which is being tested before being refined and fully launched by the end of the year, includes practical guidance for hotel staff on how to spot and report concerns, steps to identify potential risks in operational supply chains as well as purchasing of capital goods and protocols to minimise the risks of modern slavery.
In an industry-leading move, we have made our mission statement on anti-trafficking available to view on each of the 260 televisions in guests’ rooms at the DoubleTree. The statement is also prominently displayed in the hotel lobby. By making this information clearly accessible to all those who pass through our hotel, we aim to raise awareness of the problem and encourage vigilance among guests. Once the Charter is fully launched, we will roll this out across all Shiva Hotels.
The General Manager of the DoubleTree London ExCel, Mike Mason-Shaw, is passionate about working responsibly across the board, and we saw his hotel as a natural fit to trial the Anti-Trafficking Charter. The Charter builds on his ambition for the hotel to operate responsibly in all that it does; for example, the DoubleTree is part of the Sustainable Restaurant Association and Mike is aiming to ensure that the hotel recycles 90 per cent of its waste. Having previously encountered and reported an incident of sexual exploitation in a role with a different hotel group, Mike is acutely aware of the potential risks facing the industry.
The DoubleTree London ExCel has never had any reported problems with modern slavery, but these proactive steps will help to promote accountability and transparency, and ensure that as much as possible is done to safeguard against possible threats. Staff at the hotel will also receive awareness training to ensure they are confident in identifying and reporting potential problems.
As part of our work to create an industry-wide commitment, Shiva Foundation is convening leading hoteliers at a roundtable in London on the 2nd November. This roundtable – which will be a closed event held in partnership with Thomson Reuters Foundation – will help the industry discuss how it can best tackle slavery within its supply chains and beyond. The aim is for attendees to collectively contribute to building a model that can be rolled out. We plan to present the shared commitment to tackling modern slavery in the hotel industry at the Trust Women conference on 30th November in London.
Working towards an industry-wide model to help tackle modern slavery will be a major step, and we look forward to discussing how to achieve this at the upcoming roundtable. Real change takes commitment and collaboration, and tackling modern slavery will require a coordinated effort from people in our industry at all levels, from leaders and managers to the every-day hotel staff.
Only by working together will we be able to ensure the safety and livelihoods of those people who may be at risk.