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

This project investigates where and how legal changes affect supply chain designs and practices at a supply chain level and how various legal mechanisms cause change (or not) in the supply chain.
Project status

Global business supply chains span over different countries with differing legal systems and distinct market features. The structures of supply chains vary drastically across sectors, as do their market characteristics. These differences have an impact on the implementation of anti-slavery measures. The research team compared UK-Brazil supply chains in the timber and the beef sectors. Brazil has a well-established concept of modern slavery with a more stringent legal definition than the UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015. Moreover, the discourse on modern slavery in the Brazilian context is less migration-focused than in the UK and, therefore, presents an opportunity to deepen our knowledge of modern slavery beyond migration and trafficking.

The research findings indicate that where modern slavery legislation carries punitive sanctions (for example, through Brazil’s use of a ‘dirty list’ blacklisting suppliers), that legislation is effective in incentivising companies to comply with anti-slavery rules. It also creates an often-confrontational relationship between civil society, law enforcement and businesses. The team has also suggested that major market players’ leading on the implementation of anti-slavery measures is crucial to the effective spread of these measures across the industry sector. Commercial pressure from large UK buyers and the inclusion of social sustainability criteria in investment indices – rather than consumer pressure – is moreover likely to trigger change. The research has furthermore highlighted that it is essential to develop contextualised approaches to combat extreme forms of worker exploitation. Certain features of the goods and the sectors, and whether the products are produced for lesser controlled domestic markets or foreign markets in a more transparent way, could fundamentally shape the overall implementation of anti-slavery policies.

Principal Investigator: Dr Alex Trautrims, University of Nottingham

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