Understanding human rights: implications for the management of supply chains


The overall aim of the project is to understand the journeys, experiences and processes through the labour supply chains by which a migrant worker is made to do forced labour.

The project aims to achieve the following:

  • Review literature about forced labour from different disciplines to inform supply chain literature
  • Understand the implications of Modern Slavery, supply chain transparency and human rights regulations and responses from the industry
  • Map the journeys, experiences and processes which migrant workers go through to identify the mechanisms that increase their vulnerability to forced labour exploitation
  • Develop a theory or theoretical framework to understand (forced) labour supply chains.

The project involves conducting a literature review, conducting interviews, hosting a seminar and workshop, and the formation of a university-industry research consortium to implement funded projects, PhD studies and impact activities.

Key findings

Key findings from mapping recent Modern Slavery, supply chain transparency and human rights regulations:

  • Most regulations are targeted at large multinationals
  • There are new regulations that cover SMEs and the means to support them
  • New regulations cover both direct and indirect suppliers
  • There is an increased demand for a higher level of transparency
  • There is an increased emphasis on integrating supply chain due diligence policy
  • There are a variety of penalties for non-compliance.

Tentative findings from interviewing supply chain managers and human rights specialists regarding their views on recent supply chain transparency and human rights regulations:

  • New regulations set a level playing field, making transparency, risk management and due diligence mandatory
  • It is virtually impossible to fully map human rights risks at the entire upstream supply chain; the scopes and liability seem endless
  • New regulations show governments are taking more responsibilities, but also passing on (hard to achieve) responsibilities to the industry
  • The industry does not want to take responsibility in the policing of crimes (human rights violence)
  • New regulations change voluntary behaviour to a focus on minimal compliance (to transparency and due diligence requirements), as opposed to actively eradicating forced labour practices in their supply chains.

Publications and outputs