The Grace Farms Foundation, a Connecticut-based organization, announced today its new initiative to raise awareness about the use of forced labor in the manufacture of building products.
The Foundation has convened professionals from architecture, design, engineering, and related fields to form the new Grace Farms Foundation Architecture + Construction Working Group, which aims to suppress modern-day slavery by scrutinizing the supply chain of materials used in construction. The group plans to develop a list of “slave-free” project specifications and metrics, as well as an outline of criteria for responsible sourcing, in order to help architects, engineers, construction professionals and other stakeholders to avoid materials that were produced with forced labor.
“The use of slave labor in our global supply chains is used to subsidize increased returns on investment,” said Sharon Prince, president and founder of the Grace Farms Foundation. “We aim to create a movement through multiple channels—initiating a radical paradigm shift toward ethical building material supply chains in the design and construction sector, akin to the industry’s attention to the environment.” Prince added that the Foundation is taking cues from the green building movement, and hopes “to use that industry-wide muscle memory to create new policy and standards to eliminate forced labor.”
Retired U.S. Ambassador Luis C.deBaca, who fought against contemporary forms of slavery as head of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons during the Obama Administration, now serves as senior justice advisor for Grace Farms. “Men, women, and children are kept in involuntary servitude to produce materials that range from gravel to rare earth minerals, from glass to fiber,” deBaca said. “The same integrated sourcing advances that allow you to specify a particular Brazilian hardwood or Turkish marble are also bringing the underlying conditions of the workers into your project.”
More than 50 individuals have joined the working group, including RECORD editor-in-chief Cathleen McGuigan. In spring 2020, the Yale School of Architecture dean Deborah Berke will launch a guest speaker series at the university in support of the initiative.
The Foundation, which opened in 2016, operates from a SANAA-designed building an 80-acre property in New Canaan.