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Combatting Modern Slavery: Why Labor Governance Is Failing and What We Can Do About It

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LeBaron, G. (2021). Combatting Modern Slavery: Why Labor Governance Is Failing and What We Can Do About It. Talk presented at Öffentlicher Vortrag am MPIfG. Köln. 2021-01-27.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-1FF8-F
Over the last decade, the world’s largest corporations – from The Coca Cola Company to Amazon, Apple to Unilever – have taken up the cause of combatting modern slavery. Yet, by most measures, across many sectors and regions, severe labor exploitation continues to soar. Corporate social responsibility is not working. Why? In her talk, Genevieve LeBaron explores why over twenty years of corporate social responsibility initiatives have failed to produce worksites that are free of forced labor, modern slavery, and human trafficking, in spite of this being a key aim. Drawing on ground-level data in tea, cocoa, and garment supply chains – including over 1,200 interviews with vulnerable workers at the base of global supply chains – she explores how dynamics of corporate power, profit, and consolidation, and supply chain dynamics give rise to forced labor. She argues that the booming private industry of accounting firms, social auditors and consultants that have emerged to monitor and enforce labor standards do little to disrupt business models configured around forced labor, and ultimately, while corporate social responsibility serves to bolster corporate growth and legitimacy, it is failing to protect the world's most vulnerable workers.