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Policy debate

Can corporations be trusted to tackle modern day slavery?

We asked nine movers and shakers in the field of labour policy to respond to the following: 'Ending forced labor and modern slavery in global supply chains requires binding legislation, rather than corporate self-regulation and self-disclosure. Yes or no?' This is what they answered.


Genevieve LeBaron & Joel Quirk

Genevieve is Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Sheffield (UK).

Joel Quirk is Associate Professor in Political Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa).

Introduction: In whom should we trust? Responsibility and regulation in global supply chains


Anannya Bhattacharjee
Garment & Allied Workers' Union

Urmila Bhoola
UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery

Cathy Feingold

Hugh Helferty
Queen's School of Business

Houtan Homayounpour
International Labour Organisation

Ed Potter
Formerly of the Coca-Cola Company

Anna de Courcy Wheeler
The Freedom Fund

Lara White
International Organisation for Migration

Leonardo Sakamoto
National Commission for the Eradication of Slave Labour

Wrapup: can corporations be trusted to tackle modern slavery?

Enforcement of labour protections will remain an issue, but there's still a reason to require corporate due diligence on forced labour in supply chains.

Passing the buck on labour rights protection

We shouldn't hold our breath waiting for developing countries to enforce their own labour laws, so that can't be the answer for stopping forced labour.

Legislation is essential to end forced labour

Major corporations have demonstrated that they won't always do the right thing voluntarily. “Why would we assume they will?”, asks Hugh Helferty of Queen's School of Business.

Using a ‘dirty list’ to clean up ‘modern slavery’ in Brazil

Brazil forced companies to clean up their act through binding legislation and a ‘dirty list’. “Why can’t this happen globally?”, asks Brazilian activist Leonardo Sakamoto.

No either/or between business and government, both need to do better

Eradicating forced labour and modern slavery from global supply chains requires both business and government effort, argues Lara White of the International Organisation for Migration.

An international convention on decent work won't be a silver bullet

POLICY DEBATE: Binding legislation against labour abuse in supply chains can't hurt, but we already have plenty of weapons in the fight for decent work, argues Anna de Courcy of the Freedom Fund.

More legislation won't end ‘modern slavery’: only enforcement will

POLICY DEBATE: We have legal frameworks aplenty to prevent forced labour in supply chains, what we’re missing is enforcement, argues former Coca-Cola Executive Ed Potter.

All of the above and a lot more in protecting the world’s workers

Good legislation is essential, but effective enforcement and corporate investment can be just as important, argues Houtan Homayounpour from the International Labour Organisation.

A binding convention on decent work: the first step to workers' rights

POLICY DEBATE: Law is nothing without enforcement, and no better compliance monitor exists than the workers' themselves, argues Cathy Feingold of the AFL-CIO.

Unbalanced corporate power has produced a global human rights crisis

POLICY DEBATE: We have all the evidence we need that corporate self-regulation has failed. Binding regulation is the only way of challenging unbridled corporate power.

Soft law not enough to prevent slavery and exploitation

POLICY DEBATE: Many corporations need exploited labour to remain profitable, a simple truth that soft law will never effectively overcome, argues the UN special rapporteur for slavery.

Introducing the terms of debate: regulation and responsibility in global supply chains

What is the best strategy for combating labour abuses in global supply chains? Should we continue with ‘corporate social responsibility’, or should we favour an alternative of international legal liability and accountability?

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