By Alison Scowen, Senior Public Affairs Manager and Bright Future Board member
For the last of our three-part blogs marking Anti-Slavery Day, we want to share the story of Bright Future and talk about what happens when victims of modern slavery are identified, and what support is available for them.
Although we try to prevent modern slavery from happening in our business and supply chains, sometimes instances do occur. That’s why, since 2017 we’ve been raising awareness of modern slavery and campaigning for better support for victims.
Co-op and Bright Future – how it all started
Back in 2015, Stronger Together and City Hearts, two modern slavery organisations, wanted to collaborate with a business who could provide employment opportunities for survivors of modern slavery. That business was Co-op, and is how Bright Future was born.
Many modern slavery survivors struggle to find employment because they’re vulnerable and may lack a history of official employment. So, for those who are ready and able to work, Bright Future will help them find employment with responsible businesses .
Their employment initially starts as a 28-day placement with an opportunity for a permanent role if all goes well. Placements are available in a handful of our food stores, as well as in other businesses partnered with Bright Future. Excitingly, 70% of placements successfully lead to permanent employment.
Bright Future is now a Co-operative
As Bright Future grew, we felt it was robust enough to have a life outside of Co-op. Bright Future was a wholly co-operative approach where all of the businesses and charities involved were working together, driven by a common vision.
The partners overwhelmingly agreed to move Bright Future to co-operative status. So in May 2020, the FCA approved Bright Future (Co-operative) Limited with 9 founding members.
We must never forget that Modern Slavery is about the exploitation and degradation of individuals. We’re proud that Bright Future has brought together businesses and charities to provide employment placements and jobs for hundreds of survivors. By creating Bright Future, Co-op has been a catalyst for a new movement which has enabled survivors to build new lives of sustainable freedom. As for the future of Bright Future, the programme is continuing to reach out to more business and are aiming to help more survivors as the programme grows in 2021 and beyond.
Campaigning and Collaboration
Through our work on Bright Future, we’ve been able to create employment opportunities for survivors of modern slavery within Co-op. But as we learnt more about modern slavery, we realised that the level of support currently available to victims wasn’t good enough. Without the right support, victims remain vulnerable and at risk of being exploited again. Working with a coalition called ‘Free for Good’ we’ve lobbied the UK Government – with welcome support from Co-op Members – to increase the level of support available to victims.
We’ve also lobbied the Government to introduce guidelines on how organisations should report their actions to combat modern slavery. These are known as the ‘transparency in supply chains’ rules. In September 2020, the Government announced that public sector organisations (like local authorities) will be required to produce Modern Slavery Statements. All organisations will also be required to publish their statements on a Government run site – both of which were asks that we made. We’ve also sought to lead by example, pushing ourselves to be as transparent as we can in our reporting and setting ourselves challenging targets each year.
“The Government welcomes the leadership role the Co-op has taken in promoting transparency in supply chains and engaging with the Government and other leading businesses through the Business Against Slavery Forum to share best practice.”Kelly Tolhurst MP, Minister of State for Corporate Responsibility