The University of Bath School of Management has joined a research project to address the links between climate change, modern slavery and public sector supply chains to improve the UK’s policy in this area.

The collaboration between Unseen UK, University of Surrey, University of Bath, University of the West of England and London Universities Purchasing Consortium will aim to provide evidence and guidance to policymakers to ensure that robust legislation and policies are in place to meet this global challenge.

The research project comes as climate change is increasing in severity and occurrence, increasing the vulnerability of populations already subject to economic and social exploitation as people are pushed into more desperate situations to survive and provide for their families. The impact of extreme weather is likely to increase modern slavery among low-income communities in the Global South, such as farmers and their families not being able to grow crops and who can then be exploited in forced labour.

Specifically, researchers will examine the climate impact on modern slavery risks in public sector procurement, and integrating policies addressing modern slavery and climate change.

Dr Johanne Grosvold at the University of Bath School of Management will look at what facilitates and hinders public sector buyers and suppliers in addressing modern slavery and climate change in their supply chains.

“The public sector has a hugely influential role to play as a major consumer of goods that originate in supply chains where we know both environmental issues and modern slavery challenges persist, such as electronics and clothing,” says Dr Grosvold.

“I am delighted to be contributing to this project and particularly excited about the potential of this research for better understanding how climate change and modern slavery can bit into a broader debate on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), and responsible investing,” Dr Grosvold adds.

The researchers will work with London Universities Purchasing Consortium (LUPC), a public sector buyer, and Unseen UK, a non-profit focused on eradicating modern slavery.

The researchers will conduct individual interviews with purchasing staff at buyer organisations, LUPC staff responsible for sustainability, and suppliers with relevant relationships. They will also organise focus groups with purchasing managers and supplier managers.

The project aims to develop evidence-based recommendations for policymakers, public sector purchasing managers and supply chain managers, as well as generate a set of ESG standards across key factors in climate change and modern slavery.

The research is funded by Modern Slavery PEC (Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre), which in turn is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).