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Freeing the slaves from our supply chains: How far we have come and what more we can do

Michael Pollitt (Legatum Institute, London, United Kingdom.)

Human Resource Management International Digest

ISSN: 0967-0734

Article publication date: 13 October 2014




This paper aims to ask how much forced labor and trafficking have changed since the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and whether businesses and governments are taking adequate measures to remove slavery from international supply chains.


It looks at three of the most high-profile slavery cases in the past four years and asks whether modern manifestations of slavery are any different from the traditional forms we associate with the colonial governments of the eighteenth century. It sets out the latest theories behind the unexpected increase in forced labor. It also addresses the scope, successes and shortfalls of three anti-slavery enactments proposed in the past four years, to ask how much is being done to fully update international labor laws and why certain efforts could prove insufficient.

Practical implications

It points out that the government of California and the International Labor Organization have successfully implemented rigorous and savvy anti-slavery laws, but the UK has yet to produce a draft Bill that would put British anti-slavery efforts in the appropriate international context.

Social implications

It argues that international corporations must acknowledge that many of the countries in which they operate lack the institutional capacity to enforce the rule of law, so the responsibility to uphold modern-day standards often rests with the businesses themselves.


It argues that existing international anti-slavery conventions have failed to suppress the slave-trade boom because they do not reflect the shift in economic control from governments to the private sector and its trans-national network of supply chains.



Pollitt, M. (2014), "Freeing the slaves from our supply chains: How far we have come and what more we can do", Human Resource Management International Digest, Vol. 22 No. 7, pp. 1-4.



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