Looking ahead to 2021

02 December 2020

Closely managing environmental, health & safety risks throughout the supply chain can help protect people profit and reputation. Ian McKinnon discusses some key issues to pay attention to in 2021.

WHETHER IT'S being able to evidence that everyone is committed to high standards of health & safety, having confidence that modern slavery prevention procedures are in place, or meeting expanding expectations around sustainability and carbon reduction, businesses are under increasing pressure to show they have a handle on a wide range of environmental and health & safety risks throughout their supply chains. 

This has perhaps never been truer than in 2020, when companies have faced new challenges which have tested the business continuity capability of their own organisations and that of their supply chains and presented unprecedented challenges including the need to rapidly establish whether their supply chain is COVID-secure.

Poor procedures have exposed substandard working conditions, uncovered the presence of modern slavery and highlighted inadequate COVID risk management, leaving workers in danger and putting organisations at risk of legal and reputational harm.

In contrast, businesses with stringent supply chain risk management processes have been able to respond more rapidly to new challenges, for example being able to quickly confirm and evidence everyone in their supply chain is COVID-secure.

Looking ahead to 2021 there are a number of issues that businesses should consider if they want to strengthen their supply chain risk management procedures.

1. Check your supply chain is COVID-secure 

Progress around a COVID vaccination is encouraging but it is not a quick fix. Businesses will need to continue to manage the risk of coronavirus in 2021 which includes checking the issue is being taken seriously throughout the supply chain. 

The HSE is carrying out spot checks and inspections on businesses to ensure they are COVID-secure and confirm the measures they’ve put in place are in line with the latest guidance.

Certain working practices could be stopped until they are made safe and businesses that fail to comply could face a Fee for Intervention, enforcement and even prosecution. 

Action: Look for evidence that contractors are committed to COVID-secure practices. For example, CHAS contractors have completed a COVID-secure Statement of Best Practice which helps companies quickly and easily identify that they have taken steps to be COVID-secure. 

Don’t forget to also stay up-to-date with the latest official guidance at: and

2. Know your workforce

There is growing recognition of the benefits of being able to instantly verify the identity and competence of your workforce. Knowing the identity of workers before they are allowed on-site and being confident that they are qualified and have the right to work can help prevent illegal working and manage health and safety risks. 

Action: Consider whether your current workforce credential management processes are comprehensive enough. Are you confident of the identity of everyone on your site, their right to work, and their competency? Systems such as CHAS People which streamline workforce credential management can help. 

3. Don’t get caught out by Brexit deadlines 

The British government has indicated that anyone settled in the UK for more than five years as of exit day (31, January, 2020) will likely be able to gain ‘settled status’ which will grant them the same rights as British citizens but they only have until 30 June 2021 to apply. After this date if they continue to work in the UK without having made the application they will be doing so illegally.

There are concerns that language barriers and a lack of awareness of the need to apply may prevent some workers from completing the application. A sudden exodus of staff could compromise health & safety and business continuity. 

Action: Check everyone in your supply chain is aware of the need to apply for ‘settled status’ and offer assistance where required. It is free to apply and a step-by-step application guide is available in 26 European languages. The application can be accessed here:

4. Commit to cutting carbon 

In 2020 many companies have made public commitments to accelerating their journey towards carbon neutrality and they are frequently asking their supply chains to do the same. 

It is increasingly common for companies to ask suppliers to demonstrate their commitment to reducing carbon, whether this is via investment in innovative technology or finding alternative products and processes. There is also a growing appetite for companies to record their carbon data use. 

Action: Consider how you can collaborate with contractors and suppliers to cut carbon. CHAS Plant, for example, can be used to keep track of all of the plant being used on site and can help meet regulatory obligations like Non-road mobile machinery (NRMM). Businesses can find further guidance on measuring and reporting environmental impacts here:

5. Embrace the circular economy 

The circular economy, which involves eliminating waste and finding ways to continually use resources, was an emerging trend in 2020 that looks set to gain momentum in 2021 so getting strategies aligned with circular practices should be a priority. 

In 2020 a number of companies began specifying that contractors are committed to circular practices and this is likely to increase in 2021. 

Action. If you haven’t started your circular journey, check out Circulytics, a free digital measuring tool from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation which gives companies a fully comprehensive picture of their circularity across all operations and can help them to build a circular economy implementation

6. Prioritise mental health

Latest HSE statistics show a continued downward trend in accidents but mental health issues are more prevalent than ever accounting for more than half of sickness absence in 2019-2020. 

According to the HSE whether work is causing the health issue or aggravating it, employers have a legal responsibility to help their employees. Work-related mental health issues must be assessed to measure the levels of risk to staff. Where a risk is identified, steps must be taken to remove it or reduce it as far as reasonably practicable.

This issue needs to remain high up the agenda and companies must continue to consider the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on employee’s mental health.

Action: Share resources and keep lines of communication open. The HSE’s tackling stress workbook is a useful reference guide:

Consider getting staff to complete a Wellness Action Plan (WAP) - a tool individuals can use to manage their mental health and become more resilient regardless of whether they have a mental health problem. Take a look at MIND’s free Guide to Wellness Action Plans.

7. Don’t go it alone

With an increasing number of issues to get a measure of managing every aspect of supply chain risk management in-house can be a daunting task, especially when you are managing multiple contractors. It’s also unnecessary as help is freely available. For example, if you regularly hire contractors you can become a CHAS Client for absolutely no cost which gives you access to a database of contractors who meet a wide range of assessment criteria, including a growing number who have completed the new Common Assessment Standard, which is fast becoming the gold standard for prequalification in the construction industry. CHAS Clients also benefit from a number of other business services including contractor matching, contractor engagement and a risk management dashboard. 

Action: Contact CHAS to find out if being a CHAS Client is right for you and join Skanska, Royal Mail, Mercedes Benz, Cancer Research and many more. Gaining CHAS client access is a simple process that takes just a few minutes over the telephone and a few business days to organise.

Ian McKinnon is managing director at CHAS. For more information, visit