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Clothes, Chocolate and Children: Realising the Transparency Dividend

Principal Investigator: Dr Alex Balch, University of Liverpool

Co-Investigator: Professor Helen Stalford, University of Liverpool

Postdoctoral Research Assistant: Leona Vaughn, University of Liverpool

This project focuses on working conditions in supply chains involving UK-based companies, focusing on one commodity (cocoa) and one manufactured good (clothing) in four low and middle-income countries (Ghana, Dominican Republic, Bangladesh, Myanmar). It asks how the UK’s ‘modern slavery’ agenda and the associated political economy of transparency works to protect human rights and enhance the wellbeing of workers and children. It will seek to trace the effectiveness of supply chain governance, including provisions brought in under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act, in the context of other development initiatives on sustainable, equitable and ethical supply chains.

Project objectives

1) Map and analyse problems of exploitation in four low and middle-income countries relating to the production networks around cocoa and clothing

2) explore how business and worker groups are responding to the transparency in supply chains agenda in the UK, and how this impacts on workers in low and middle-income countries

3) Examine the (competing) children’s rights arguments and experiences underpinning the UK’s modern slavery agenda and compare these with those in low and middle-income countries where children may make up a significant portion of the workforce

4) Evaluate and assess different systems of supply chain monitoring currently being used in these production networks

5) Generate recommendations for the development and modification of transparency measures (e.g. company size, reporting requirements, compliance mechanisms) in accordance with findings

We will address our objectives through mixed methodologies that will include policy analysis, mapping of global production networks and economic sectors. Fieldwork will gather new empirical evidence on working conditions and child labour through testimony and responses to questions from an indicative sample of the labour force, and through interviews of stakeholders in each of the countries and sectors.

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