Connecticut Green Building Council Awards Design for Freedom its CTGBC Trailblazer Award – November 2022
In reflecting on a year of new outcomes, Fast Company, in a profile of Sharon Prince, our CEO and Founder, summed up a momentous year with this headline: “The construction supply chain is plagued by slave labor. She’s changing that.”
Fast Company acknowledged Prince as one of the Most Creative People in Business 2022 for “cleaning up construction,” joining a prestigious list of 56 innovators in their fields. As Jill Bernstein, Editorial Director, remarked about the Most Creative People in Business selection process, it starts with considering accomplishments that no one has done before – “something meaningful that’s already making a difference.”
Prince is moving the needle on this humanitarian crisis – at an accelerated pace. Launched in October 2020, she convened more than 60 global leaders to join in an ambitious pursuit to remove forced labor from the built environment. The Design for Freedom Working Group has since grown to over 80 leaders from the ecosystem of the built environment including architecture, engineering, and construction. The magnitude of the forced labor crisis has unfortunately not abated over time, increasing from 25 million to nearly 28 million today, according to the International Labour Organization. While COVID-19 exacerbated the crisis, areas of conflicts and disasters perpetuate this illegal activity, endangering the welfare of men, women, and children, as well as the environment and communities at large.
“All good revolutions begin like this.” – Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, President and CEO of the International Peace Institute, and the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at the Design for Freedom Summit launched this year.
Design for Freedom Launches Five International Design for Freedom Pilot Projects
Since launching in October 2020, with a groundbreaking Design for Freedom report and a dedicated website, much of the initial momentum was around raising awareness about the use of forced labor in the construction industry through the media, industry speaking engagements, as well as developing class curricula addressing the issue at major universities such as Yale. While significant advancements were made in building awareness, particularly among leaders in the industry, initiating Pilot Projects has demonstrated that ethical and sustainable sourcing of building materials is possible. Chelsea Thatcher, Creative Director & Chief Advancement Officer at Grace Farms Foundation, initiated the five international Pilot Projects in the U.S., U.K., and India.
Pilot Projects – Demonstrating Ethical Supply Chains
Black Chapel by Theaster Gates with architectural support by Adjaye Associates (21st Serpentine Pavilion, London’s Kensington Gardens) is the first international Design for Freedom by Grace Farms project. As Responsible Materials Advisor, Grace Farms worked with the Pavilion project team to enhance material transparency and prioritize ethical procurement. Grace Farms traced several materials used in the Pavilion’s construction as far upstream as possible and engaged with suppliers and manufacturers to enhance material transparency and reduce the risk of forced and child labor in the products used to construct the Pavilion.
Having slavery-free materials in a high-profile project like the Serpentine Pavilion, she says, “is accelerating the growing movement to eliminate forced labor from the building materials supply chain.” – Fast Company, June 10, 2022
On June 12, the UN World Day Against Child Labor, Design for Freedom hosted a reception in the Black Chapel, where people were able to experience the Design for Freedom movement through the artistic leadership of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Serpentine, and Grace Farms. The program began with a ringing of the bell at Serpentine salvaged from St. Laurence Church in Chicago’s South Side as part of Theaster Gates’ Black Chapel.
Harriet Tubman Monument in Newark, New Jersey
The Harriet Tubman Monument, which is designed by architect, artist, and United States Artists Fellow Nina Cooke John, will open in 2023. The two-story monument, Shadow of a Face, provides the opportunity for the public to connect with Harriet Tubman, her story, and extraordinary legacy. Cooke John’s commitment to transparent sourcing of materials is a powerful message about the desire to design and build forced labor free.
Arts and Culture Center, New Delhi, India
“In the arts and cultural center that Serendipity Arts is setting up in New Delhi, we are hoping to make this a model project, and we are delighted to partner with Grace Farms to turn this into a Design for Freedom Project.” – Sunil Kant Munjal, Founder Patron of Serendipity Arts. Serendipity Arts is working with CRAB Studio and ARUP on the project.
New Canaan Library, New Canaan, Connecticut
This is the first Design for Freedom building project in the U.S. Design for Freedom is partnering with New Canaan Library on a new state-of-the-art knowledge and learning center, to explore and pursue the use of low-risk materials – materials less likely to be sourced through forced labor – during the building’s construction. Design for Freedom is collaborating with Centerbrook Architects, Turner Construction, and 21 subcontractors to trace raw and composite (engineered from two or more materials) building materials as far as possible within the supply chain.
Temporal Shift by Alyson Shotz
Temporal Shift, a site-responsive sculpture that was at Grace Farms through October 2022, interacted with natural light and animated an interior courtyard of the SANAA-designed River building at Grace Farms, describing time as the seasons change. Grace Farms worked with Design for Freedom Working Group members Joe Mizzi and Jay Gorman from Sciame to trace the stainless steel and concrete used in Temporal Shift to ascertain sources and labor inputs. 100% of the steel and concrete used in Temporal Shift was ethically sourced.
“Think about it. First it was food … Then came clothing. I’m proposing that shelter will be next.” – Sharon Prince, 1st Dibs, March 20, 2022
OBO committed to eliminating slave labor from the material supply chain
The U.S. State Department of Overseas Building Operations (OBO), affirmed their significant commitment to Design for Freedom during their 2022 Industry Advisory Group Annual Meeting. OBO is the first government entity to do so. Nearly 500 people attended in person and virtually, including peers, industry partners, and colleagues from the Architect of the Capitol, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other governmental institutions. Sharon Prince delivered the keynote address and was joined by Senior Advisor to the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Amy Richard O’Neill, and Director at SHoP Architects, Paul Frederickson, for a discussion on the topic of modern slavery in the material supply chain.
International Ethical Action Meetings Extends Design for Freedom Reach
Design for Freedom, along with key partners within the global community, held Design for Freedom Ethical Action Meetings in Mumbai, India and in London, U.K.. In India, there was an opportunity to discuss sustainable development in the country, and the impact of partnering to increase transparency and introduce strategies to implement ethical design. Also in attendance was the Curry Stone Foundation, whose mission is to empower the practice of community-driven social impact design.
In London, Sharon Prince presented Design for Freedom at ARUP, a world leader in the design industry. More than 100 people from Arup and other firms joined the meeting to address ethical and sustainable practices in materials selection within supply chains. This meeting launched a new contingency of the Design for Freedom Working Group.
The Launch of the First-Ever Design for Freedom Summit
More than 300 participants, spanning the ecosystem of the built environment, attended our inaugural Design for Freedom Summit for an inspiring and groundbreaking gathering of influential minds to addressed forced labor in the building materials supply chain. During the Summit, we released the Design for Freedom Toolkit, a comprehensive resource that design and construction professionals can use to help implement ethical, forced labor-free material sourcing strategies.
Inaugural Earth Equity and Design for Freedom Landscape Forum
Shortly after the Summit, we held our inaugural Earth Equity and Design for Freedom Landscapes Forum, bringing together nearly 300 industry leaders, including Edwina von Gal, Founder of the Perfect Earth Project, and Karenna Gore, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Earth Center for Earth Ethics.
“It is not the Earth that needs fixing, it is our relationship to it.” – Karenna Gore
Summit on Transnational Threats in an Increasingly Interconnected World
Grace Farms Foundation and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection partnered to on the Summit on Transnational Threats in an Increasingly Interconnected World. Held at Grace Farms, over 250 law enforcement officials from federal, state, and local agencies convened to discuss emerging and established transnational threats and share best practices on how to combat them. One of the critical issues focused on was the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which went into effect on June 21, “ensuring that goods made with forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China do not enter the United States.” The legislation is an additional tool that is being used to combat forced labor in the building materials supply chain.
“We see a more humane future and it’s in our sights.” – Sharon Prince
A New Partnership with SustainChain
Design for Freedom by Grace Farms and the US Coalition on Sustainability announced a partnership that will advance their shared goals of advocating for and realizing sustainable and ethical supply chains that are free of forced labor. Grace Farms Foundation became one of the leading forerunners to join SustainChain™, the coalition’s technology platform that uses advanced digital technology and machine learning to bring together innovators, impact investors, businesses, NGOs and public-private sector alliances with the aim of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a comprehensive plan consisting of 17 interrelated goals to address and resolve some of our global humanitarian challenges. Design for Freedom directly addresses SDG Target 8.7 with the goal of taking immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and eliminate child labor.
Continuing to Expand Design for Freedom’s Reach Internationally
Sharon Prince virtually attended the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, with Anna Dyson, a member of Grace Farms’ Design for Freedom Working Group and the Hines Professor of Architecture at the Yale Schools of Architecture and Environment. They participated on a panel discussion on the potential of the buildings and building materials for a climate neutral world.
Training the Next Generation of Designers & Architects
Design for Freedom engaged hundreds of students around the world at leading universities including Yale and Illinois Institute of Technology.
As we set our sights on a more humane future, we plan on hosting our second Design for Freedom Summit on March 30, 2023, as well as the Grace Farms Landscapes Forum on May 10. We are also setting our sights on expanding our reach with additional Design for Freedom Pilot Projects.
Join us as we build a more humane future and Reimagine Architecture together.
To find out more about the Design for Freedom movement and find out how you can get involved please contact us.