Modern slavery in supply chains: a secondary data analysis of detection, remediation and disclosure

Mark Stevenson (Department of Management Science, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)
Rosanna Cole (Surrey Business School, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Publication date: 12 March 2018

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to examine how organisations report on the detection and remediation of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains and to understand their approaches to disclosing information in response to modern slavery legislation.

Design/methodology/approach

An analysis of secondary data based on the statements is released in response to the 2015 UK Modern Slavery Act by 101 firms in the clothing and textiles sector.

Findings

Many firms use the same practices to detect and remediate modern slavery as for other social issues. But the hidden, criminal nature of modern slavery and the involvement of third party labour agencies mean practices need to either be tailored or other more innovative approaches developed, including in collaboration with traditional and non-traditional actors. Although five broad types of disclosure are identified, there is substantial heterogeneity in the statements. It is posited however that firms will converge on a more homogenous set of responses over time.

Research limitations/implications

The study is limited to one industry, responses to UK legislation and the information disclosed by focal firms only. Future research could expand the focus to include other industries, country contexts and stakeholders.

Practical implications

Managers must consider how their own firm’s behaviour contributes to the modern slavery threat, regulates both their stock and non-stock supply chains and ensures modern slavery is elevated from the procurement function to the boardroom. In making disclosures, managers may trade-off the potential competitive gains of transparency against the threat of information leakage and reputational risk should their statements be falsified. The managers should also consider what signals their statements send back up the chain to (sub-)suppliers. Findings also have potential policy implications.

Originality/value

The study expands the authors’ understanding of: modern slavery from a supply chain perspective, e.g. identifying the importance of standard setting and risk avoidance; and, supply chain information disclosure in response to legislative demands. This is the first academic paper to examine the statements produced by organisations in response to the UK Modern Slavery Act.

Keywords

Citation

Stevenson, M. and Cole, R. (2018), "Modern slavery in supply chains: a secondary data analysis of detection, remediation and disclosure", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 81-99. https://doi.org/10.1108/SCM-11-2017-0382

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Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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