This research by project investigates mandated responsibility of international modern slavery governance to a revised standard of conduct for RIBA chartered architects. Forensic analysis will disentangle regulatory ecosystems across jurisdictions and countries through mapping to spatialise legal territory and reveal policy and process. In making visible the complexity of a seemingly straightforward requirement, it will define an obscure and evolving lawscape to inform procedures necessary for ethical decision-making and thus empower architects in protecting the rights of the individual.
Rapid urban development is a primary cause of the world’s most significant social and environmental problems. With increasingly globalised supply chains and complex regulatory requirements of international development, the architect’s intent is now exposed to some of the most controversial practices of global capitalism. Claims of labour exploitation in the construction industry across the globe have led to the revision of the RIBA Code of Professional Conduct to hold the chartered architect accountable for ensuring that their project’s supply chains ‘comply with all applicable legislation concerning Modern Slavery’. This research, therefore, attends to the dual pressures of upholding the integrity of the professional standards of RIBA chartered practice and advancing social responsibility in global development. It will explore the impact of this regulatory change on the architect’s duty of care in defining the standard of conduct required in its compliance.
Whilst a considerable body of regulation is established, the perseverance of modern slavery suggests these initiatives are not always effective in practice. The lawscape of modern slavery is complex, and ranges from hard to soft, global and local, human rights, labour rights, social and economic governance. Consequently, the obligations for the management, reporting and compliance of these, particularly across national territories vary considerably, as demonstrated by initiatives for policy coherence and co-operation by the United Nations (UN) in their 2030 Agenda - Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Of particular note is the endeavour to extend of the principle to include all sustainable development under SDG 17.
There are many contributing factors in the failure to curb modern slavery beyond policy coherence. It has been suggested this may be due to the fragmentation of the construction industry, poor supply chain integration, procurement weighted toward lowest cost tenders, or for the international practitioner, an inherent risk from conducting business in a deregulated world. Despite the demand to tackle unethical practice, the profession is deficient in practical solutions. Other than the enactment of regulation, RIBA members lack clear direction; from an approved definition of best-practice, ratification of a compliance management system or the disclosure of the institutions methods for the reporting and enforcement of such requirements. Consequently, the practitioner is underequipped to navigate the complex and often-vague obligations of social policy.
In making visible the complexity of a seemingly straight forward requirement, this research-led practice will generate evidence of regulatory ecosystems to inform procedures necessary for ethical decision-making. The project will propose that a shift is ultimately required in the ethical culture of the institution, its behavioural and procedural patterns if social change is to be achieved. Significantly however, that this might be realised through the self-regulation of a rights-based approach to development over traditional institutional regulation. It is speculated that this could be achieved by an increase in both awareness and transparency, driven by the disclosure of due diligence by the identification and discharge of such obligations.