Genevieve LeBaron is Director of SPERI and Professor of Politics at the University of Sheffield. She is an Editor of Review of International Political Economy. She has been included in the 2018 UK Top 100 Corporate Modern Slavery Influencers and the 2017 global Top 100 Human Trafficking & Slavery Influence Leaders lists, alongside world leaders from the UK and US governments and industry leaders from companies like Apple and Ford. Her research has won a number of awards— including the Rising Star Engagement Award by the British Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences—and has been covered widely in the media, including by the Financial Times, The Independent, Forbes, The Guardian, The Economist, and the BBC.Genevieve’s work is at the forefront of the emerging evidence base on forced labour, human trafficking, and slavery in the global economy. Since 2008, she has been investigating the business of forced labour, and its role and dynamics within domestic and global supply chains. Genevieve’s current research focuses on multi-national corporations and the global labour market. She is particularly interested in how the changing nature, power, and ownership structure of corporations is impacting labour standards in the global economy. She has completed studies on the effectiveness of corporate social responsibility, including ethical certification and social auditing, in addressing labour exploitation and forced labour.
Research Methods & Research Design
Global Supply Chains
A growing body of scholarship analyzes the emergence and resilience of forced labor in developing countries within global value chains. However, little is known about how forced labor arises within domestic supply chains concentrated within national borders, producing products for domestic consumption. We conduct one of the first studies of forced labor in domestic supply chains, through a cross‐industry comparison of the regulatory gaps surrounding forced labor in the United Kingdom. We find that understanding the dynamics of forced labor in domestic supply chains requires us to conceptually modify the global value chain framework to understand similarities and differences across these contexts. We conclude that addressing the governance gaps that surround forced labor will require scholars and policymakers to carefully refine their thinking about how we might design operative governance that effectively engages with local variation. By: Andrew Crane Genevieve LeBaron Jean Allain Laya Behbahani
Deepening concern about forced labor and slavery has paralleled the rapid growth of the world’s biggest retail and brand companies in the era of globalization. The risk of slavery and forced labor in global supply chains is now significant. The International Labour Organization estimates that at least 21 million people are victims of forced labor worldwide and the illegal profits derived from the extraction of forced labor by private business have been estimated to exceed $44 billion. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the social audit industry are currently working with corporations to “slavery-proof” supply chains against these illegal practices through voluntary, corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Given the flurry of anti-slavery initiatives, it would seem that in recent years there has been much positive change. After all, few corporations today would reject the notion that they have some responsibility for promoting labor standards in their supply chains. But the question of how far corporate liability and responsibility should extend within supply chains remains contentious. Without diminishing the serious challenges that corporations face in governing complex supply chains, I argue in this article that framing the discussion in these terms overlooks the question of why supply chains have become so long and complex, and indeed the agency of corporations in restructuring production practices in this way.
By most accounts, forced labour, human trafficking, and modern slavery are thriving in the global economy. Recent media reports — including the discovery of widespread trafficking in Thailand's shrimp industry, forced labour in global tea and cocoa supply chains, and the devastating deaths of workers constructing stadiums for Qatar's World Cup— have brought once hidden exploitation into the mainstream spotlight. As public concern about forced labour has escalated, governments around the world have begun to enact legislation to combat it in global production. Yet, in spite of soaring media and policy attention, reliable research on the business of forced labour remains difficult to come by. Forced labour is notoriously challenging to investigate, given that it is illegal, and powerful corporations and governments are reluctant to grant academics access to their workers and supply chains. Given the risk associated with researching the business of forced labour, until very recently, few scholars even attempted to collect hard or systematic data. Instead, academics have often had little choice but to rely on poor quality second-hand data, frequently generated by activists and businesses with vested interests in portraying the problem in a certain light. As a result, the evidence base on contemporary forced labour is both dangerously thin and riddled with bias. Researching Forced Labour in the Global Economy gathers an interdisciplinary group of leading scholars to tackle this problem. It provides the first, comprehensive, scholarly account of forced labour's role in the contemporary global economy and reflections on the methodologies used to generate this research.
Mass protests have raged since the global financial crisis of 2008. Across the world students and workers and environmentalists are taking to the streets. Discontent is seething even in the wealthiest countries, as the world saw with Occupy Wall Street in 2011. Protest Inc. tells a disturbingly different story of global activism. As millions of grassroots activists rally against capitalism, activism more broadly is increasingly mirroring business management and echoing calls for market-based solutions. The past decade has seen nongovernmental organizations partner with oil companies like ExxonMobil, discount retailers like Walmart, fast-food chains like McDonald’s, and brand manufacturers like Nike and Coca-Cola. NGOs are courting billionaire philanthropists, branding causes, and turning to consumers as wellsprings of reform. Are “career” activists selling out to pay staff and fund programs? Partly. But far more is going on. Political and socioeconomic changes are enhancing the power of business to corporatize activism, including a worldwide crackdown on dissent, a strengthening of consumerism, a privatization of daily life, and a shifting of activism into business-style institutions. Grassroots activists are fighting back. Yet, even as protestors march and occupy cities, more and more activist organizations are collaborating with business and advocating for corporate-friendly “solutions.” This landmark book sounds the alarm about the dangers of this corporatizing trend for the future of transformative change in world politics.