Rather than having to end poverty to end slavery, can we end slavery to help end poverty? We are completing the first extended analysis of contemporary slavery’s political economy. While there are studies analysing labour markets, systematic studies on the economic incentives of contemporary slavery are missing. Our work includes an analysis of the economic incentives for using slave labour, and an analysis of factors that determine the vulnerability of a person. This enables deeper investigations of markets for different types of enslaved labour. We are also demontrating how slavery impacts the economy and development of a country, and measuring the dividend that comes with liberation. Here we statistically model and measure the economic benefits of ending slavery. We aim to show the theoretical benefits of eradicating modern slavery on the wider economy, and provide a solid scientific basis for encouraging countries to prioritise antislavery efforts.
Slaves supply us with many of the things we buy. But we offer the world’s largest multidisciplinary research programme on slavery in supply chains. Our programme consists of four main areas: detecting modern slavery and human rights violations in supply chains; changing supply chain design to reduce modern slavery and human rights violations; diffusing responsible practices in complex supply chain networks; and engaging closely with industry as the key change mechanism. For example, we offer a step change by factoring in slavery to supply chain design from the outset. We are establishing a typology of supply chain structures from an ethical performance perspective, simulating the impact of structural changes, investigating the tipping point for designers, and establishing what level of risk will prompt design amendments. Our research proposes a democratisation of supply chains, connecting the individual actors. Availability of information enables practitioners to make ethically informed decisions and allows accountability in the supply chain. We are designing an extension of quality management tools to ethical compliance and creating simulations that can forecast the impact of potential changes.
We are demonstrating the tight connection between ending slavery and reducing environmental destruction. Our preliminary research shows that if slavery were a country, it would have a population of some 46 million people and the gross domestic product of Angola (in global terms a small and poor nation), yet would be the third largest emitter of CO2 (2.54 billion tons per year) in the world after China (7.39 billion tons) and the United States (5.58 billion tons). Responding to this, we are completing the world’s largest study on the relationship between slavery and ecosystems. This work will: Compile, synthesise and integrate spatial data on the landscape changes that result from slavery activities and calculate the environmental costs of these activities and the potential gains that stem from curtailing slavery, with a focus on carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services. Explore the values associated with environmental gains, their capacity to be captured in environmental markets, and their ability to help fund slavery prevention and abolition efforts. Explore links between ecological resilience and human vulnerability as a precondition to enslavement.
Caroline joined the University of Nottingham in March 2017. She is working, with Dr Alexander Trautrims, on the Rights Lab ‘Unchained supply’ project which engages closely with practitioners to better understand, and to effect change in, modern slavery supply chain risk.