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Modern Slavery

Modern Slavery

BT is committed to the principles of ethical behaviour and respecting human rights. Applying these principles helps us do business responsibly in a way that respects customers, employees, suppliers, their workers and other stakeholders.

Since 2000 we have been a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact, which calls on companies to meet fundamental standards on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. We’ve also committed to implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which call on companies to know and show their impacts on people’s human rights. We implement these principles through The Way We Work (Our Code of Business Ethics) which is explained below.

In August 2016 we published our first Modern Slavery Act Statement.

Our Code of Business Ethics

  • We don’t use or accept forced, bonded or involuntary prison labour or child labour. Nor do we demand deposits or hold onto workers’ identity papers, or work with businesses that do. We only work with people who choose to work freely.
  • We only want to work with people who choose to work freely, with rights to equal opportunity, freedom of association and collective bargaining. We’re updating our Code of Business Ethics to expressly prohibit human trafficking and workers paying a fee to work for us.
  • The Way We Work sets out how we expect BT people to behave. It is also the standard we expect from everyone who works on our behalf, including suppliers and contractors. Any subsidiaries in which we hold more than a 50 per cent interest must adopt The Way We Work and integrate it in their business.
  • The Way We Work is part of our purchasing terms for suppliers. Our suppliers must flow these terms down to their suppliers, so that our standards apply to all companies and workers delivering to us, even if not contracting directly. With suppliers whose products or services we need and where we have longer term agreements we use our Sourcing with Human Dignity standard, establishing the principle that working conditions in our supply chain should meet international labour standards.
  • Sourcing with Human Dignity covers freely chosen employment, freedom of association, working conditions, child labour, living wages, working hours, discrimination, regular employment and harsh or inhumane treatment. It is available in eight languages. We’re strengthening it to include more explicit references to forced or bonded labour and human trafficking.

What we have done in in the last year

Stronger governance

  • Resourcing contracts now say that candidates must not be charged fees – the employer must pay.
  • Trained three additional supplier assessors in India.
  • 20 per cent more supplier assessments than in 2015/16.

Improved awareness

  • Reviewed modern slavery awareness in 500 suppliers.
  • Created video on how to spot modern slavery: 2,600 employee views and shared with over 2.8 million through social media using the hashtag #Freetheunseen.
  • Worked on changes to The Way We Work (our code of ethics) and training to include human trafficking.


  • BT is providing communications services, equipment and consultancy for the UK Modern Slavery Helpline & Resource Centre
  • In partnership with the Cabinet Office, we ran an Innovation Lab competition earlier this year. The winning SME is using its technology expertise to help the police more effectively address modern slavery.
  • We instigated and co-sponsored a summit at Wilton Park (executive agency of the FCO) in June with governments, law enforcement, international and civil society organisations and the tech sector to focus on the role of technology in tackling modern slavery (further detail below).

Checking our approach

  • Reviewed our procurement and due diligence processes to identify improvements.
  • Shared learning with governments and other companies for new insights.
  • Increased external validation of our supplier assessments using Ecovadis.  


Last year we set up the UK’s Modern Slavery Helpline and Resource Centre with Unseen, a UK charity focusing on tackling modern slavery. The helpline (0800 0121 700) is there 24 hours every day for people to report a suspicion, get help or seek advice and information. It has handled over 1000 calls and identified 1365 potential victims in the first six months of operation.

Low public awareness of the signs of slavery and what to do when you spot it are key challenges in tackling modern slavery. We worked with Unseen to create a short video to explain these signs and promote the helpline. We shared the video and a factsheet to encourage all BT employees to get involved in the fight against modern slavery.

We’re working with the police to explore how technology can play a bigger role in supporting efforts to respond to this crime. Together with the UK Government’s Cabinet Office and TechHub we ran a competition to identify promising and innovative solutions to help law enforcement. The winner was Chorus Intelligence who provide a solution which can analyse different types of digital data to drastically reduce the time it takes to identify links between suspects. It helps analysts and operational leads to uncover previously hidden connections, open up new lines of enquiry and generates court room ready reports from raw data in just minutes.Broader technology industry collaboration is vital to scale up efforts, share best practice and work together to disrupt modern slavery. We brought together around 50 leading experts from governments, law enforcement, international and civil society organisations, academia and tech companies in a conference at Wilton Park to explore the role of technology to tackle modern slavery.

This was the first time many of the participants have engaged collaboratively on this topic. They concluded that technology could deliver a step change in how we tackle modern slavery, support victims and reduce crime and the need for further collaboration. The next steps are to explore a range of options to convene and facilitate progress on addressing the challenges and opportunities this event identified. The report is available to download.

Our business and supply chain, who we are and what we do

We invest to build and maintain communications networks in the UK and overseas; we develop products and services that run over those networks and then we sell them to consumers, businesses and the public sector.

We are also a global business communications provider, serving ICT services to 5,500 multinational companies in 180 countries. We have companies which are part of the BT Group to help deliver those services. They must stick to our code of ethics and use the centralised BT procurement and recruitment policies and processes, as long as they are more than 50 per cent owned by BT.

Our supply chain

We buy a vast range of products and services; around 18,000 suppliers sell to us, based in 150 countries. These suppliers, in turn, use their own suppliers creating a very large and complex supply chain.

How we check compliance with our standards in the supply chain

We assess potential suppliers before contracting with them. We send an ethical standards questionnaire to all potential suppliers of higher and medium risk products and services. We consider the country where we’re sourcing from, and the skill level of the labour force used.

Once we receive responses, they are analysed and a risk score is generated: high, medium or low. This score decides what the next action will be. If we uncover any areas of concern, we will work with the supplier to address the issue directly.

As an immediate response to the Modern Slavery Act coming into force, we analysed the areas with the highest risk of modern slavery and human trafficking. We based our findings on what we were buying from suppliers, and from where they were sourcing their products or services. This analysis allowed us to prioritise our assessment work for the last year.

How we check compliance with our standards in our own business

We want to ensure that what we say in our policies happens in practice, and to quickly and easily identify the potential risk of modern slavery and human trafficking and respond if we find it. Our aim is to prevent modern slavery or human trafficking in our business right at the start of our recruitment processes. We have a recruitment policy which aligns with our principles in The Way We Work. Our recruitment team is made up of HR professionals who all complete mandatory training on The Way We Work, and their work performance standards reflect that they must comply with that code.

We hire roughly 80 per cent of our people in the UK using our own recruitment teams and we use external agencies for some jobs (about 20 per cent of UK recruitment). External agencies go through the same procurement processes we apply to our supply chain. We don’t charge fees to people joining BT. We wouldn’t expect our external agents to do this either.