Modern Slavery in Global Supply Chains: Towards a Legislative Solution

50 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2020

See all articles by David Hess

David Hess

The Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan

Date Written: October 1, 2020

Abstract

Modern slavery is a global problem. Over 25 million people are in forced labor, with many of those people directly or indirectly involved in the production of goods sold in the U.S. through multinational corporations’ supply chains. Corporations benefit from modern slavery and their business practices are often one of its root causes, which is why modern slavery persists despite a societal repulsion to the practice. To hold corporations accountable for their efforts to ensure they are not linked to modern slavery, governments, such as the state of California and the United Kingdom, have relied on mandatory disclosures requirements. This Article shows that such transparency initiatives are ineffective, and despite attempts to improve on their shortcomings, they will continue to be ineffective for achieving corporate accountability. This ineffectiveness results from corporations approaching transparency as an end in itself, with the production of disclosures being disconnected from operational changes. In addition, these disclosures rely heavily on social audits to demonstrate a company’s due diligence efforts, but social audits have not proven to be a reliable way to monitor human rights related impacts in the supply chain. Instead, efforts towards a legislative solution must focus on mandatory human rights due diligence. Such an approach would be consistent with a developing trend in Europe. This Article advocates for the U.S. to move away from transparency-based regulation and towards mandatory human rights due diligence for regulating modern slavery in global supply chains.

Keywords: Business and Human Rights, Modern Slavery, Human Rights Due Diligence

JEL Classification: K20, K38, K42, M14, M16

Suggested Citation

Hess, David, Modern Slavery in Global Supply Chains: Towards a Legislative Solution (October 1, 2020). Cornell International Law Journal, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3731743 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3731743

David Hess (Contact Author)

The Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States
734-763-9779 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://michiganross.umich.edu/faculty-research/faculty/david-hess

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