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The Interaction of Law and Supply Chain Management in Cross-Judicial Supply Chains: Supply Chain Effectiveness of Modern Slavery Legislation

Principal Investigator: Dr Alex Trautrims, University of Nottingham

Co-Investigator: Dr Silvia Pinheiro, Fundação Getulio Vargas

Modern supply chains cross country boundaries regularly and frequently and with it the boundaries of legal systems. They are affected by hard law such as international trade law and the law of individual countries; and also by soft law such as production regulations, codes of conduct and contractual agreements. This project will investigate where and how these legal mechanisms affect design and practices at a supply chain level and how various legal mechanisms cause change (or not) in the supply chain.

We will identify and analyse laws and norms that are challenging modern slavery, their enforcement and their implementation and effect in the supply chain. The research is set in the UK-Brazil beef and timber supply chains. Its result will inform future supply chain decisions and law-making for the eradication of modern slavery. It links the disciplines of law and supply chain management. Although both have streams of research on modern slavery, they have so far researched mainly in isolation and at an economy-level, without considering how law and supply chain design and practices interact.

Global supply chains are facing a multitude of legal mechanisms from an increasing number of jurisdictions with the ambition to improve labour conditions and sustainability across the chain. The research results will be useful for supply chain practitioners’ decisions and inform future anti-slavery legislation.

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Update 14 May 2018

Modern Slavery workshop in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

A collaborative workshop to discuss the interaction between supply chain practice and modern slavery legislation in Brazilian – UK beef and timber supply chains was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 24 April 2018.

Funded by the British Academy, the workshop formed part of a wider project investigating the Supply Chain Effectiveness of Modern Slavery Legislation, within the British Academy’s Tackling Slavery, Human Trafficking and Child Labour in Modern Business programme. The project research team comprises academics from The University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab and PUC Rio’s BRICS Policy Centre who are working in collaboration with representatives from the UK-based NGO CORE; the international Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and Reporter Brasil.

The purpose of the workshop was to explore the interaction between socio-environmental requirements and supply chain management. Delegates attended from the research partner institutions, the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES); the Brazilian Tree Industry Association (IBA); the Sustainable Livestock Working Group (GTPS); Connectas Human Rights; the Brazilian Ministry of Labour and Employment and the Institute of Forest and Agricultural Management and Certification (IMAFLORA).

Presentations and discussions were related to understanding the effectiveness of socio-environmental norms in global supply chains in a Brazilian context; advances and flexibilisation of social environmental laws in Brazil and pluralism and innovation in the implementation of fundamental rights in supply chains: including certification, transparency, due diligence and supply chain monitoring.

Several important themes emerged during the discussions. In the first panel the gap between the requirements for local and export markets was considered; how global supply chain operations were related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); the tangible impact of the UKs Modern Slavery Act in Brazil; how regulations related to animal health might be expanded to include conditions related to vulnerable workers; the need for law to formalise socio-environmental norms; the trade-offs between verticalization and outsourcing in the supply chain and the connection between environmental and social norms.

The second panel included discussion of the criteria used in the labour inspection of degrading and debilitating work; how the principles of joint responsibility might be used in Brazilian law; whether it is more effective to encourage laws that punish or laws that advocate against slave labour and how the Brazilian Government might respond to the new Modern Slavery law from the UK.

The third panel considered how improved supply chain traceability might create greater transparency and opportunities for further social auditing; the competitive constraints of comprehensive disclosure; the roles and liabilities of third-parties in innovative solutions and the lessons that could be learnt from cross-sectoral comparison.

One Brazilian Ministry delegate commented, ‘the discussion was rich, and it is important that we keep up to date and aware of the best discussions and ideas related to the subject of modern slavery’.

Further fieldwork in Brazil will be conducted in August and final project outputs will include the publication of due diligence guidelines for practitioners. The project is scheduled for completion in March 2019. Further details are available from the Principal Investigator, Dr Alexander Trautrims (alexander.trautrims@nottingham.ac.uk).

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