About Us

Project Aims

This research project focuses on working conditions in supply chains involving UK-based companies, focusing on one commodity (cocoa) and one manufactured good (garments) in four low and middle-income countries (Ghana, Dominican Republic, Bangladesh, Myanmar).

It asks how the UK’s ‘modern slavery’ agenda and the associated political economy of transparency works to protect human rights and enhance the wellbeing of workers and children.

It will seek to trace the effectiveness of supply chain governance, including provisions brought in under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act, in the context of other development initiatives on sustainable, equitable and ethical supply chains.

Project Objectives

  • To map and analyse concerns of exploitation in four low and middle-income countries in production networks relating to cocoa and garments
  • To explore how business and worker groups are responding to the transparency in supply chains agenda in the UK, and how this impacts on workers in low and middle-income countries 
  • To examine the (competing) children’s rights arguments and experiences underpinning the UK’s modern slavery agenda and compare these with those in low and middle-income countries where children may make up a significant portion of the workforce
  • To identify and evaluate different systems of supply chain monitoring currently applied to these production networks
  • To generate recommendations for the development and modification of transparency measures in the light of the findings

We will address our objectives through mixed methodologies that will include legal and policy analysis and mapping of global production networks and economic sectors. Fieldwork will gather new empirical evidence on working conditions and child labour through testimony and responses to questions from an indicative sample of the labour force, and through interviews with stakeholders in each of the countries and sectors.

Research Questions

Based on Sustainable Development Goal this project aims to make a practical and empirical contribution to policymaking in the areas of forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and the worst forms of child labour through qualitative research on the cocoa and garments industries. It explores the following research questions: 

  • How do experiences/levels of exploitation vary according to the profiles of workers, especially child workers, the demographic and industry context? In what ways can this knowledge and the experiences of workers be used to improve understanding and practice of supply chain ethics?
  • What factors influence the resilience and vulnerability of particular supply chains to different forms of labour exploitation?
  • What factors have influenced the effectiveness of particular interventions and/or models of governance in promoting labour rights? What practical policy recommendations can be drawn from the case studies presented? 

Project Team:

Alex Balch (UoL) - Principle Investigator
Leona Vaughn (UoL) - Post-Doctoral Research Associate


Helen Stalford (UoL)
Jennifer Johns (UoB) 
Amanda Berlan (DeM U)
Sammie Currie (UoL)
Caroline Robinson – FLEX