Combatting Modern Slavery – Why Labour Governance is Failing and What We Can Do About It

Genevieve LeBaron
Level: beginner
Publisher: Polity Press
Perspective: Other
Topic: globalization, industrial policy
page count: 224 pages

Blurb

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 labour exploitation continues to soar. Corporate social responsibility is not working. Why? In this landmark book, Genevieve LeBaron lifts the lid on a labour governance regime that is severely flawed and limited. She takes a close-up look at the millions of corporate dollars spent on anti-slavery networks, NGO partnerships, lobbying for new transparency legislation, and investment in social auditing and ethical certification schemes, to show how such efforts serve to bolster corporate growth and legitimacy as well as government reputations, whilst failing to protect the world's most vulnerable workers. To eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking in global supply chains a new approach is needed; one that confronts corporate power and profits, dismantles exploitative business models, and regulates the booming private industry of accounting firms, social auditors, and consultants that has emerged to 'monitor' and 'enforce' labour standards. Only worker-driven initiatives that uphold fundamental rights can protect workers in the contemporary global economy and make forced labour a thing of the past.

Book summary

This is an important book that explores the contradiction of multinational corporations, such as Coca Cola, Amazon, Apple and Unilever, positioning themselves as fighters of modern slavery. It goes beyond the study of exploitative labor relations on the ground to trace how they are legitimized through a complex governance network centered in the Global North, despite the involvement of anti-slavery networks and ethical certification schemes. Indeed, the book details how severe labor exploitation is legitimized precisely through futile attempts to implement ‘corporate social responsibility’. LeBaron also presents an alternative way of confronting modern slavery which addresses the prevalent business models head on to enforce the necessary labor standards.  


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