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Governing labour standards along complex global supply chains key challenge in tackling forced labour, research finds

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20 September 2017

Governance gaps in eradicating forced labour: From global to domestic supply chains

Author: Andrew Crane, Genevieve LeBaron, Jean Allain & Laya Behbahani in Regulation & Governance

"Governance Gaps in Eradicating Forced Labor: From Global to Domestic Supply Chains," 6 September 2017

...We find that understanding the dynamics of forced labor in domestic supply chains requires us to conceptually modify the global value chain framework to understand similarities and differences across [industries]...

The critical insight...is that forced labor needs to be understood in the context of the intersection of product and labor supply chains... [O]utsourcing of economic activities is central to the occurrence of forced labor in the UK just as it is in Global Value Chains (GVCs). Our findings suggest, however, that the location of forced labor in the UK is not restricted to outsourced production but also to outsourced labor...

Over the last five years, a number of governments have passed responsive regulation to combat forced labor. This body of legislation has framed the challenges of tackling the business of forced labor as one that concerns global supply chains...

Our work [covering three industries: food, construction, and commercial cannabis cultivation] suggests that the governance gaps surrounding forced labor in supply chains needs to be re-thought along two dimensions: in relation to domestic (as opposed to global) supply chains, and in terms of the differences that surround forced labor that occurs in developed countries (as opposed to developing countries)...

[It] reveals the need to isolate product and labor supply chains, and to engineer governance initiatives that respond to the specific forms of complexity typical of domestic chains... Only by isolating the respective product and labor supply chains can we identify the types of complexity that need to be targeted in domestic governance initiatives to combat forced labor... This finding has implications for policy, and particularly for the recent wave of public governance initiatives to combat forced labor...

In addition to rethinking predictions about governance gaps from the domestic perspective in GVC literature, our research also suggests that it is important to carefully calibrate our thinking about these issues in the context of developing countries... [refers to Nobel Foods, Tesco, McDonalds, Sainsbury's, Marks & Spencer, Asda]

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20 September 2017

Why businesses fail to detect modern slavery at work

Author: The Conversation

"Why Businesses Fail to Detect Modern Slavery at Work," 11 September 2017

... Companies can increasingly trace where their products come from – but not the workers who produce them. According to the National Crime Agency, there could be tens of thousands of victims of modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK. The crime is is far more prevalent than law enforcement previously thought. And businesses have little hope of detecting modern slavery practices unless they adopt a new approach that focuses specifically on their labour supply chains. 

...[T]he key issue in tackling modern slavery is in understanding the labour supply chain. These are often unregulated networks through which forced or trafficked workers may be recruited, transported, and supplied to business by third party agents...

Leading UK companies are starting to wake up to the fact that their existing systems for detecting worker abuse simply are not fit for purpose for uncovering modern slavery. But, as new initiatives emerge, the critical factor determining their success will be whether they meaningfully address the labour supply chains that feed their business... [refers to Apple]

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