Three new projects to explore and uncover links between the climate crisis and modern slavery globally have been announced by the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (Modern Slavery PEC).

The projects are designed to provide evidence and guidance to policymakers to ensure that robust legislation and policies are in place to meet the increasing intersection between these two major global challenges.

Specifically, researchers will examine:

  • Uyghur forced labour in the production of green technology, such as electric cars and solar panels - Anti-Slavery International (ASI), Sheffield Hallam University and Investor Alliance for Human Rights.

  • Climate impact on modern slavery risks in public sector procurement - University of Surrey, University of Bath, University of the West of England, and London Universities Purchasing Consortium (LUPC).
  • Integrating policies addressing modern slavery and climate change in the UK and devolved administrations – University of Nottingham, Transparentem, and International Justice Mission (IJM UK).

As climate change increases in severity and extent, the vulnerability of populations already subject to economic and social exploitation increases, pushing people into more desperate situations to survive and provide for their families. The impact of extreme weather is likely to increase modern slavery among low-income communities in the Global South due to negative impacts on livelihoods, such as farmers and their families not being able to grow crops and therefore more vulnerable to being exploited in forced labour.

Prof Alex Balch, Director of Research at Modern Slavery PEC said:

It’s incredibly important that we see climate change as an issue that directly affects and exacerbates modern slavery exploitation at an ever-increasing rate. We have funded these research projects so we can get ahead of the issue and inform policies that are more effective in mitigating both related global challenges”.

LUPC is involved specifically in the Climate change and modern slavery in public procurement research project, working with the University of Surrey, University of Bath, and the University of the West of England.

Don Bowman, Director, LUPC, said: “LUPC has always been at the forefront of Responsible Procurement, it is embedded in all we do. We are proud to have been asked to contribute to such important academic research on the links between climate change and modern slavery. As we work towards achieving net zero, it is vital that we also focus on creating decent work opportunities to ensure no one is left behind.”

Organisations which negotiate and manage agreements for public sector buyers are in a unique position to help effect change and address the connection between modern slavery and climate change in public procurement.

The project will generate an in-depth case study comprised of multiple tiers of public sector supply chains. The researchers will conduct individual interviews with purchasing staff at buyer organisations, London Universities Purchasing Consortium staff responsible for sustainability, and suppliers with key relationships. The research group will also organise focus groups with purchasing managers and supplier managers.

The project aims to develop evidence-based recommendations for policymakers, public sector purchasing managers and supply chain managers on the links between climate change and modern slavery, as well as generating a set of ESG standards across key factors in climate change and modern slavery to pilot a framework to track ESG policies and strategies which better connect these risks.

Michael Rogerson, Lead Researcher and Lecturer, Department of Digital Economy, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation at the University of Surrey, said:

“The public sector spends tens of billions of pounds a year on goods and services, which offers an enormous potential for shaping social and environmental conditions in supply chains. We want to understand what influence public buyers are having, what best practice looks like, and how they can maximise their influence for better outcomes for people and the climate in supply chains.”

For any queries, please contact Mags Shapiro, Responsible Procurement Lead, LUPC.