Grace Farms Calls for Industry-Wide Ethical Lens on Forced Labor

Sharon Prince, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the non-profit Grace Farms Foundation, has announced the launch of Design for Freedom—a new movement to eradicate forced labor from the built environment.

Design for Freedom includes the publication of a new report providing analysis and data on how forced labor is cemented into the foundations of buildings. The publication also follows the launch of a dedicated website with tools, resources, and original content, and partnerships with academic institutions to educate future architects and the public about this pressing humanitarian issue.

Design for Freedom began in the fall of 2017, when CEO and Founder of Grace Farms Foundation, Sharon Prince, and the late Bill Menking, Founding Editor-in-Chief of The Architect’s Newspaper, discussed the fact that acknowledging forced labor in the building materials supply chain—and what could be done to eliminate it—was not on the industry’s agenda.

From their initial conversation at the SANAA-designed Grace Farms, they convened leading principals across the architecture, engineering, and construction sectors for the Design for Freedom Working Group (formerly the Grace Farms Foundation Architecture + Construction Working Group).

Since then, an expanding group of more than 60 experts and leaders from sectors that actualize or influence the built environment joined to raise awareness and create outcomes that will ensure a clean, ethical building materials supply chain.

“Examining our building materials supply chain is a moral and legal imperative,” said Prince. “Almost all modern construction projects are subsidized with slavery, due to unchecked forced labor that permeates thousands of raw and composite materials sourced both locally in the United States and globally. While initial attention concentrated on developing ethical labor practices on construction and job sites, we now seek to extend these regulations to the building materi­als supply chain, including oversight of sub-contractors, manufacturers, and commodities-level providers in such areas as forestry, fiber, and mining.”

The Design for Freedom report asks the industry to take a closer look at the materials it builds with and who makes them – and design a more humane future. The report is a call to action from more than 30 leaders at the forefront of innovation in the built environment, including action steps for various stakeholders, encouraging the industry to apply an ethical lens to their daily roles.

The Design for Freedom report is written and edited by Sharon Prince; Luis C.deBaca, former Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and Sr. Justice Advisor, Grace Farms Foundation; and Chelsea Thatcher, Founding Creative Director and Chief Marketing Officer, Grace Farms Foundation.

“The Design for Freedom report is essential reading for everyone involved in the design and construction industry. As a complement to the AIA Code of Ethics, which asserts that members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors, this report provides invaluable perspectives that underscore an architect’s obligation to enhance and facilitate human dignity and the health, safety, and welfare of everyone who uses, as well as creates, their buildings. AIA New York is a proud participant in the Working Group that has created this report, and through this work, we will continue to encourage AIA members to understand their pivotal role in ending forced labor.”