This paper aims to draw attention to the challenges modern slavery poses to supply chain management. Although many international supply chains are (most often unknowingly) connected to slave labour activities, supply chain managers and researchers have so far neglected the issue. This will most likely change as soon as civil society lobbying and new legislation impose increasing litigation and reputational risks on companies operating international supply chains.
The paper provides a definition of slavery; explores potentials for knowledge exchange with other disciplines; discusses management tools for detecting slavery, as well as suitable company responses after its detection; and outlines avenues for future research.
Due to a lack of effective indicators, new tools and indicator systems need to be developed that consider the specific social, cultural and geographical context of supply regions. After detection of slavery, multi-stakeholder partnerships, community-centred approaches and supplier development appear to be effective responses.
New theory development in supply chain management (SCM) is urgently needed to facilitate the understanding, avoidance and elimination of slavery in supply chains. As a starting point for future research, the challenges of slavery to SCM are conceptualised, focussing on capabilities and specific institutional context.
The paper provides a starting point for the development of practices and tools for identifying and removing slave labour from supply chains.
Although representing a substantial threat to current supply chain models, slavery has so far not been addressed in SCM research.
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