Department of Social & Policy Sciences

Funding awarded for project tackling modern slavery in global supply chains

15 December 2017

Dr Michael Bloomfield is part of a team of interdisciplinary researchers receiving funding for a new research project: ‘Combatting modern slavery through business leadership at the bottom of the supply chain.’

The project is led by Andrew Crane (Professor of Business and Society, University of Bath) and, along with Michael Bloomfield (Lecturer in International Development, University of Bath), includes researchers Laura Spence (Professor of Business Ethics, Royal Holloway, University of London), Genevieve LeBaron (Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of Sheffield), and Vivek Soundararajan (Lecturer in Strategy and International Business, University of Birmingham).

The funding has been awarded by the British Academy in partnership with the UK Department for International Development as part of the ‘Tackling Slavery, Human Trafficking and Child Labour in Modern Business’ programme.

The research is being conducted in Tamil Nadu, India, which is a major export centre for textiles and apparel feeding into fashion supply chains globally, much of which is destined for UK high street shops.

Focusing on leadership at the bottom of the supply chain


It is becoming increasingly apparent that social audits and similar top-down initiatives have not been effective in tackling worker exploitation, such as bonded labour and sexual abuse. It has proven particularly difficult to impact what are often informal and unregulated sub-tiers of supply chains through initiatives led by big brands from the top of the supply chain.

This project will be the first large-scale academic effort focusing on business relationships in these sub-tiers.

The team’s pilot fieldwork has shown that local actors, from factory owners to labour market intermediaries, have begun trying to combat unscrupulous labour practices in different ways. To date, these initiatives and their impacts are not well understood.

The project will systematically map the various actors and relationships in the sub-tiers of the fashion supply chains in South India, determine the drivers and barriers for local business actors to address worker exploitation, and to evaluate the effectiveness of these initiatives in combatting modern slavery.

You can read more about the project at the Bath Business and Society blog.