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.
Even as we tackle slavery as a global problem, we recognise the importance of local action and offer the first major examination of slavery as a local issue. This is lodged in our work to help make Nottingham the world’s first slavery-free city. We test the ‘theories of change’ underlying policy responses to modern slavery, highlight evidence for good practice, adapt and apply the latest theories on the dynamics of social practice to local policy on slavery, and share transferable, scalable and sustainable policies that can help communities to become slavery-free. Throughout we build, test, and disseminate collaborative multi-agency policy responses to slavery, which can be adapted to a wide variety of settings. We share learning from the project nationally and tap into public sector networks to explore how our methods might be applied within varying local contexts and governance institutions. We are drawing up comparisons with other locality-based antislavery initiatives in the UK, and hope to roll out a city-based process nationally then develop a transferable model for developing countries with our NGO partners.
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.