Tag Archives: transparency

Why a degree in modern slavery is a valuable addition to your CV

Modern slavery may seem a distant issue in Australia, but a new course will teach graduates why an understanding of it is increasingly important in every business

It might be easy to imagine, especially in Australia, that slavery is a thing of the past. But an estimated 15,000 people were living in conditions of modern slavery here in 2016, through forced marriage and labour, sexual exploitation, debt bondage and human trafficking – exploitation that disproportionately affects women, children, asylum seekers and migrants. Globally, in that same year, 40.3 million victims were being abused.

Martijn Boersma is an associate professor of human trafficking and modern slavery at the University of Notre Dame Australia, where a new course aims to provide the skills and knowledge that will enable people to work proactively to put an end to the exploitation of vulnerable people.

Continue reading Why a degree in modern slavery is a valuable addition to your CV

The Myth of the Social License to Operate

Over the last two decades many of the world’s largest companies have been involved in scandals, misconduct and dubious ethics. Rather than relying on interventions by public authorities, the dominant governing rationality is informed by the belief that the market is able to balance social, environmental, and financial interests. However, the vast majority of companies that have been involved in ethical transgressions have survived – and have even thrived. Potential damage to the reputation of companies, or threats to their ‘social license to operate’, seems to have had a limited effect. There is therefore reason to believe that market forces are not adequate by themselves to correct corporate misbehaviour.

This chapter from the upcoming ‘Research Handbook on the Sociology of Organizations’ explores the reliance on market forces to correct corporate actions that are not aligned with the common good. It examines to what extent legitimacy theory adequately explains the dynamics around organizational legitimacy, and it proposes an expansion of legitimacy theory to increase its explanatory power: the use of social dominance theory and legitimizing myths expands (organizational) legitimacy as a theoretical construct. In explaining why antagonistic stakeholders continue to rely on market-based approaches, this research suggests that they have either bought into the hierarchy-enhancing myths, or they have not yet developed compelling hierarchy-attenuating myths to challenge the status quo. The chapter concludes with the suggestion that the ‘social license to operate’ and ‘corporate purpose’ are legitimizing myths that uphold the idea that the market can balance social, environmental, and financial interests.

Boersma - Organizational legitimacy and legitimizing myths

Political investorism: Conceptualising the political participation of shareholders and investors

This article establishes a new basis for examining the participation, mobilisation and impact of investors at a time when market-based activism for social change is rising in prominence. Existing terminology describing the expression of political values through investment decisions lacks conceptual clarity. Political participation by shareholders and other investors is variously described as shareholder activism or socially responsible investment, and currently conceptualised under the banner of political consumerism. However, this term fails to capture the unique political role and diverse actions of investors. We put forward ‘political investorism’ as a cohering term for investment-based political participation to remedy existing conceptual confusion, to distinguish between investors and consumers as political actors and to set an agenda for the future study of market-based activism. This article defines and develops the concept of political investorism, drawing upon illustrative cases from Australia to identify hallmarks, actors and tactics of this form of political participation.

O’Brien et al. - 2022 - Political investorism Conceptualising the politic

Will Ratification of the ILO Protocol on Forced Labour Make Australia’s Approach to Modern Slavery More Survivor-Centred?

40.3 million people are a victim of modern slavery, 21 million of which are in forced labour.

While these estimates are not uncontentious, recurrent news reports that detail abusive working practices, including modern slavery in Australia and overseas, remind us that this is a real and significant problem.

For example, investigations into the Australian horticultural industry have uncovered a pattern of systemic underpayment and abuse of workers. Similarly, the production of rubber gloves in Malaysia is tainted by exploitative practices, such as excessive recruitment fees, withholding of passport and wages, threats to workers and forced overtime.

In the last four years, the Australian Government has taken steps to address workplace exploitation in the operations and supply chains of Australian companies and this week it ratified the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Protocol on Forced Labour.

With the ratification of the ILO Protocol on Forced Labour, Australia inches closer to making its response to modern slavery more survivor-centred, placing increased emphasis on the rehabilitation and compensation of those that have been exploited.

Continue reading Will Ratification of the ILO Protocol on Forced Labour Make Australia’s Approach to Modern Slavery More Survivor-Centred?

Paper Promises? Examining Australia’s Modern Slavery Act

Two years into its operation, close to 4,000 statements have now been published on the government’s modern slavery register. Yet the extent to which the legislation is transforming business practices or making a tangible difference to the lives of workers remains highly uncertain. This report analyses 102 company statements published in the first reporting cycle of the MSA, to evaluate how many companies are starting to implement effective measures to address modern slavery and how many are lagging.

This report is part of a two-year collaborative research project by academics and civil society organisations aimed at improving responses to modern slavery and access to remedy for affected workers.

Paper Promises

Modern Slavery and the Employment Relationship: Defining the Continuum of Exploitation

The Special Issue on ‘Modern Slavery and the Employment Relationship: Defining the Continuum of Exploitation’ in the Journal of Industrial Relations is now available online. The Special Issue focuses on what the large- and small-scale risk factors are that can cause working conditions to deteriorate, on how people can become trapped in exploitative conditions, and on what can be done to prevent and remedy labour abuses. Included articles explore the macro-level, specifically by examining global value chains and the labour exploitation within the global production regime and by examining the producer-end (rather than buyer end) of value chains and the responsibilities of companies for working conditions further downstream (rather than upstream) in the value chain. Other articles explore the market-based character of business and human rights regulation. One article concludes that market enforcement of modern slavery regulation is sub-optimal and should include $ penalties and a public regulator while another article asks whether business and human rights regulation originating in the Global North can improve working conditions in the Global South (spoiler: it’s complicated). Articles looking at the micro-level examine labour regimes on factory floors, specifically by examining the influence of the post-Rana Plaza labour governance system on worker outcomes and conditions of employment (hardship remains but less sweatshops) and by documenting the work experiences of Romanian transnational live-in care workers in Austria, where workers gave accounts of having been treated unfairly due to their dependence on placement agencies and employers.

Boersma and Nolan - 2022 - Modern slavery and the employment relationship Ex

Research Article: Making sense of Downstream Labour risk in Global Value Chains

While the efforts by actors on the buyer-side of value chains – such as brands and retailers – to address upstream labour abuses are well documented, there is a lack of research into how actors on the production-side of value chains – such as raw material producers – can identify and address downstream labour risks. This research presents the findings of an action research project that focused on the Australian cotton industry. By applying a sense-making lens, we propose four properties that can be used to identify labour risk in global value chains, providing insights into the capacity of producers to address downstream labour abuses. We suggest that there is a possibility for a ‘book-end’ approach that combines upstream and downstream actions by buyers and producers in global value chains.

The article can be found on the Journal of Industrial Relations website.

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New Paper: Blockchain and Modern Slavery

While blockchain was designed as a ledger for cryptocurrency transactions, it can record transactions of anything of value. Blockchain is increasingly used to prove the integrity of commodities, tracing their supply chain journey from the source to the end user. Yet, transferring this technology from a cryptocurrency context to a supply chain setting is not without difficulties. This article explores the implications for multinational and transnational companies in using blockchain as a means to address modern slavery. The paper identifies five challenges: verification, inclusion, trust, privacy, and normativity.

The paper was published in AIB Insights. A PDF version of the paper is also available.
 
Boersma, M., & Nolan, J. 2020. Can Blockchain Help Resolve Modern Slavery in Supply Chains? AIB Insights. https://doi.org/10.46697/001c.13542.
 
 
Boersma-M.-Nolan-J.-2020.-Can-Blockchain-Help-Resolve-Modern-Slavery-in-Supply-Chains-AIB-Insights.-https-doi.org10.46697001c.13542

Modern slavery laws – what do they mean for your business?

Modern slavery and supply chain transparency are some of the new buzz words attracting increased attention from the corporate sector, write Justine Nolan and Martijn Boersma.

In 2018, Australia (and NSW) enacted modern slavery laws which require entities to report on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains and actions taken to address those risks. This new law will impact companies, law firms, universities and the Australian government who will now need to have a better understanding about how their operations and procurement practices may be enabling modern slavery.

Continue reading Modern slavery laws – what do they mean for your business?

Can Blockchain help to break the chains of modern slavery?

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Global supply chains have struggled to deal with poor working conditions including child labour, forced labour and debt slavery. Julien Harneis/Flickr, CC BY-SA

There’s a good chance the device on which you are reading this contains cobalt. It’s an essential metal for batteries in phones and laptops. There’s also a chance the cobalt was mined by slaves. Continue reading Can Blockchain help to break the chains of modern slavery?