This work is part of a series of Forced Labour Evidence Briefs that seek to bring academic research to bearon calls to address the root causes of the phenomenon in global supply chains and catalyse systemic change. To do so, the briefs consolidate evidence from recent academic research across several disciplines, including political science, law, sociology, business, and management, identified through literature reviewsin Web of Science and other academic databases.At a critical moment when COVID-19 has led to increased focus on conditions in global supply chains and growing calls for systemic change, these briefs seek to inject new knowledge from academic research into ongoing debates about how practical reforms can be achieved. They focus on six themes: mandatory human rights due diligence and transparency legislation; commercial contracts and sourcing; investment patterns and leverage; the labour share and value redistribution; ethical certification and social auditing; and worker debt. Each brief presents new ideas and examples of how business models and supply chains can be restructured to promote fair, equitable labour standards and worker rights.
→Forced labour and human rights abuses of workers are endemic across several sectors of the global economy. Recognising this, governments around the world have introduced legal frameworks designed to encourage corporations to take responsibility for tackling this abuse in global supply chains.
→Transparency legislation, a dominant mode of regulation, is not working. Academic research has highlighted major weaknesses in the effectiveness of transparency legislation to influence corporate behaviour. Corporations can comply with transparency legislation without altering the commercial practices that lead to forced labour and exploitation. Strong sanctions for non-compliance are lacking,as are paths for remedy and redress for victims. Briefly put, to date, transparency has sparked disclosure without actually changing things. Early efforts towards human rights due diligence to date have similarly focused on mapping with little action towards meaningful change.
→Fortunately, there are potential solutions. Transparency legislation should be reformed and strengthened. In addition, mandatory human rights due diligence legislation (mHRDD) should be passed requiring companies to address adverse human rights impacts, including forced labour, linked to their supply chains. mHRDD introduces a new duty on corporations to carry out robust human rights due diligence across their entire supply chains and it can be combined with strong sanctions such as civil liability and supervision by a public oversight body that can impose a fine on those not carrying out the duty.
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