Building Sustainability in All Endeavors, From Ethical Construction to This Publication

AuthorBy Wm. Cary Wright
4 Volume 42 Issue 3
Published in
The Construction Lawyer
, Volume 42, Number 3. © 2023 American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not
be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.
As we learned at the Forum’s
Annual Meeting in April in
Vancouver, “sustainability” is
an important word in the con-
struction industry, having a
broad meaning, both nancially
and morally. The theme of the
Forum’s Annual Meeting was
“The Future of Construction
Law.” We covered topics such as “Transformative Events
in Construction Law,” “Data, Data, and More Data: The
Implications of Big Data on Construction Claims,” and
“Current Trends and Future Approaches to Renewable,
Recyclable, Sustainable, and Ethically Sourced Mate-
rials”—all timely and relevant topics to construction
practitioners. The most impactful for me, however, was
the Diversity Breakfast presentation by Sharon Prince,
CEO and Founder of Grace Farms Foundation, because
it shed light on the existence of forced labor and slavery
in the built environment, from sourced materials to the
construction site.
Grace Farms Foundation’s mission is to pursue peace
through ve initiatives—nature, arts, justice, community,
and faith. Its stake in the ground is to end modern slav-
ery and gender-based violence, and create more grace and
peace in our local and global communities. These are lofty
and worthwhile goals that we, as construction practitio-
ners, can join in helping to achieve—or, at least, move the
needle in the right direction.
Grace Farms has teamed with industry leaders, includ-
ing AIA New York, Ford Foundation, Gensler, Yale
School of Architecture, and many more, to study and
tackle the issue of forced labor by forming its Architecture
and Construction Working Group. In 2020, the Work-
ing Group produced a 96-page report titled “Design for
Freedom,” which is meant to raise awareness about slave
labor in the built environment and propose an industry-
wide call to action. The report presents achievable calls to
action, including the development of slave-free specica-
tions and rigorous auditing standards in the procurement
of construction materials, as well as the use of big data
and technology, to dismantle the illegal dependence on
slave labor. Important to our clients, the report also lays
out an ethical business model to reduce reputational risks
and increase long-term gains.
Wm. Cary Wrig ht
By Wm. Cary Wright
Building Sustainability in
All Endeavors, From Ethical
Construction to This Publication
The statistics and information in the report are startling.
Globally, almost 25 million people are held in servitude
for forced labor and close to 152 million children from the
ages of ve to seventeen years old are subjected to child
labor. This problem spans the gamut in the construction
industry, and is present in the sourcing of materials, man-
ufacturing, and at the construction site. The following
global materials are the top twelve building materials at
risk of being made with forced and child labor:
Fiber & Textiles
For example, timber is one of the most widely used
construction materials in the world and is ranked as the
fth largest product (by value) imported into the U.S. at
risk of forced labor. The most offending countries where
forced labor is prevalent are Brazil, Peru, and Russia. In
Russia, an estimated 80 percent of all timber is illegally
harvested and primarily located in eastern regions that
contain old-growth forests. The timber workforce in this
region is typically comprised of North Korean migrants
sent on a state-sponsored labor-export scheme, who are
isolated in remote, prison-like logging camps. A large por-
tion of the timber produced under these modern slavery
practices is exported to China, where it is blended with
legally sourced material and exported worldwide. It is
routed to the U.S., to retailers such as Lumber Liquida-
tors, which was ned under the Lacey Act, and is now
known as LL Flooring,
In addition to bringing awareness to modern-day
slave labor, Grace Farms Foundation is organizing and
rallying the construction industry—owners, designers,
contractors—to do their respective parts. For owners, it
is to demand sustainable buildings free of materials and
4 4 7/18/2023 1:52:05 PM7/18/2023 1:52:05 PM

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