Delhi: The University of Leeds in partnership with the Goa Institute of Management (GIM) are sharing the findings from their recent research study “Following the Thread: Understanding the clothing supply chain and the affect British Legislation has on Indian Business”. The study is funded by the British Academy and the Department for International Development (DfiD).
Key findings from the project include:
Businesses in the fashion and textile sector have limited engagement with the Modern Slavery Act. While a number of businesses communicate very well with the public about the Act and the issues it aims to address, a large number of firms do not engage with the letter and spirit of the Act;
Limited transparency along the supply chain inhibits the implementation of the Act. International brands often do not have a proper handle of their complete supply chain;
Suppliers are often seeing the engagement with the Modern Slavery Act as a pure compliance requirement without which they could not export. This suggests that they would not address labor exploitation otherwise.
Following events with industry, trade unions, NGOs and policy makers in India, Vietnam, and the UK it has become clear that the complexity and fluidity of the fashion industry’s global supply network (many formal and informal tiers of suppliers that are constantly changing) means that vulnerability to modern slavery is present in all countries. This makes defining, identifying and reducing modern slavery a very challenging ambition for even the most progressive businesses.
Said Prof. Ajit Parulekar, Director, Goa Institute of Management, “In our 25th year of operations we continue to focus on research and consultancy. Each year GIM adds research publications and we were happy to collaborate with the triple crowned Leeds University Business School to engage in a project which is in line with our theme this year – ‘Principle Centered Leadership’. The project is an ongoing effort to address global concerns around child labour and modern slavery as laid out in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8.7 which aims to end forced labour and modern slavery.”
Dr Hinrich Voss, Associate Professor of International Business, University of Leeds, who is leading the team said that “The objective of the study is to develop insights into potential challenges implementing the UK legislation in the global clothing supply chains, as well as gather examples of how Indian industry is engaging with it and understand potential issues around social challenges. We hope the input from key Indian stakeholders can be used to influence further UK policy development in this area.”
Added Kamal Singh, Executive Director, UNGC, “Sustainable Development Goals is a critical point on the agenda of every stakeholder as it can ensure that nobody gets left behind. For India we must work towards making sure that the SDG framework impacts everyone including those at the bottom of the pyramid”
The United Kingdom has put in place the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which includes the onus on big businesses to make public their efforts to identify and stop the exploitation of labour within its supplier network. The Transparency in Supply Chain Provisions require businesses to publish an annual statement if they have a global annual turnover above a threshold of £36 million. Australia has a similar law that came into effect on 1 January 2019. The UK Modern Slavery Act reflects the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Number 8.7: “Decent work and economic growth”.
The study aims to develop insights into potential challenges in implementing the UK legislation in global clothing supply chains, as well as gather examples of how the Indian clothing and textile industry is engaging with stakeholders and addressing potential issues including social and environmental challenges. The research by the University of Leeds and Goa Institute of Management is focusing on the textile clusters in Tamil Nadu which have been supplying major global brands for many years and are well established. The working population in these clusters, especially in the textile industry has seen rapid changes. The rapid economic progress of the state has meant that the local working population has moved on to higher-paying skills and they are being replaced by migrant workers, primarily from North East India. The resulting demographic changes in the workforce, dynamics of competition and increased awareness has meant that the industry has to be aware of international compliance requirements and expectations.
In this regard, an event is being hosted in Delhi this week. The targeted audience for this event are Government, businesses, and NGOs where team will discuss how the Modern Slavery Act (and similar legislation from other countries) has and will affect the global supply chain industries. The event is jointly delivered by the University of Leeds, the Goa Institute of Management to provide a forum for key stakeholders to voice their views and concerns and thus ensure a fair representation of their perspectives and a chance to participate in policy development.