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Fighting 'Evil' Like Climate Change Will Help Businesses Win Government Contracts in the UK

By Sarah Shearman

LONDON, March 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Businesses looking to win British government contracts must do more to help society, tackling issues such as modern slavery and climate change, the UK government said on Monday.

The call came from British Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington who was due to unveil proposals to overhaul the process for awarding contracts to run public services to ensure the social impact of the businesses are taken into account.

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The move was designed to help the government — which spends about £49 billion ($65 billion) every year on contracts with external organisations — ensure its supply chain was free from bad practices.

"It is morally right that we make sure none of that money goes to any organisations who profit from the evil practices of modern slavery," Lidington said in a statement.

"Similarly, it is right that we demand that the organisations we work with meet the high standards we need to protect our environment and employ workforces which represent our diverse society, including people with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities."

Under the plan, companies bidding for government contracts would have to prove their track record in ensuring supply chain safety, environmental sustainability, workforce diversity, and training opportunities for staff.

The Social Value Act 2012 encourages government procurement officers to consider the social and environmental impact of contracts they award rather than opt for the lowest bid.

But the plan would extend the law's requirements to ensure all major procurements evaluate social impact where appropriate.

It comes as concerns have mounted over the use of private companies to deliver public services following last year's collapse of one major provider, construction giant Carillion.

Victor Adebowale, chairman of Social Enterprise UK, said the proposals would boost British social enterprises, which are businesses set up to deliver social impact as well as profit.

"Social value should not be seen as a luxury in any part of the public or private sectors but common sense," Adebowale said in a statement. "Social enterprises have been pioneers, but it is important that every sector follows."

(Reporting by Sarah Shearman @Shearmans. Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and slavery, property rights, social innovation, resilience and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)