- Start date: 1 November 2020
- End date: 30 April 2021
- Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
- Principal investigator: Dr Mark Sumner (School of Design);
- Co-investigators: Dr Matthew Davis (Leeds University Business School, Socio-Technical Centre); Professor Hinrich Voss (HEC, Montreal); Professor Divya Singhal (Goa Institute of Management).
The fashion industry has historically been exposed to modern slavery issues which pre-date the COVID-19 pandemic. So how were the industry and its workers affected by the pandemic?
This research project - a Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre project, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council - explored the impact of the pandemic on modern slavery risks in Indian fashion supply chains.
The project studied these impacts from the perspective of:
- UK fashion brands
- Multiple tiers of Indian fashion supply chains
- Key industry stakeholders.
By considering the full supply chain and the relationships between different actors, the project explored how the pandemic impacted modern slavery risks for workers across all tiers of the supply chain.
Key findings from the research include:
- The impact of Covid-19 was not evenly felt across tiers of the supply chain and affected different parts of supply chains at different times.
- Brands and suppliers with strong relationships had a better understanding of the impacts of the pandemic that supported the recovery from the pandemic.
- Brands with established ethical trading teams had a greater level of resilience to the pandemic which was beneficial to both brands and suppliers and workers.
- Brands who engaged with the transparency provisions of the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 tended to understand the impacts of the pandemic better.
A wide range of recommendations was developed from the research and these include:
- Businesses should resource dedicated ethical trading teams and view them as an investment to reduce risk and increase the resilience of the brands and their supply chain.
- Addressing modern slavery issues requires collaboration across brands, suppliers and upstream, beyond tier 1 suppliers.
- The UK Government should consider introducing a Garment Adjudicator to regulate the industry and develop a level playing field for brands to enforce the Modern Slavery Act.
This project was commissioned by the Policy and Evidence Centre and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. (project AH/V009206/1).
Publications and outputs
- Summary report: Impact of Covid-19 on Indian fashion supply chains, May 2022
- Report: Fashion supply chains, modern slavery and the Covid-19 pandemic, December 2021.
- Report: The impact of Covid-19 on unethical practices in global supply chains, January 2021. https://doi.org/10.5518/100/65
- Visual summary: The impact of Covid-19 on unethical practices in global supply chains, January 2021.
- Blog post: The impact of Covid-19 on unethical practices in global supply chains, February 2021.
- Webinar: Impact of Covid-19 on management to eradicate modern slavery from global supply chains: A case study of Indian fashion supply chains, September 2021
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