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Research Webinar | Combatting Modern Slavery: Why Labour Governance Is Failing and What We Can Do About It

Monday February 22, 2021, from 13:15 to 14:45
Research seminar

Genevieve LeBaron (University of Sheffield)
DiscussantCharles Roger

Over the last decade, the world's largest corporations from The Coca-Cola Company to Amazon, Apple to Unilever, have taken up the cause of combatting modern slavery. Yet, by most measures, across many sectors and regions, severe labour exploitation continues to soar. Corporate social responsibility is not working. Why? In this talk, Genevieve LeBaron will explore why over twenty years of corporate social responsibility initiatives have failed to produce worksites that are free of forced labour, modern slavery, and human trafficking, in spite of this being a key aim. Drawing on ground-level data in tea, cocoa, and garment supply chains -including over 1200 interviews with vulnerable workers at the base of global supply chains) she will explore how dynamics of corporate power, profit, and consolidation, and supply chain dynamics give rise to forced labour. She will argue that the booming private industry of accounting firms, social auditors and consultants that have emerged to monitor and enforce labour standards do little to disrupt business models configured around forced labour, and ultimately, while corporate social responsibility serves to bolster corporate growth and legitimacy, it is failing to protect the world's most vulnerable workers.

Genevieve LeBaron is Professor of Politics and Co-Director of Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) at the University of Sheffield. She is an Editor of Review of International Political Economy.

Genevieve’s work is at the forefront of the emerging evidence base on forced labour, human trafficking, and slavery in the global economy. Since 2008, she has been investigating the business of forced labour, and its role and dynamics within domestic and global supply chains.