Horizontal Collaboration in Response to Modern Slavery Legislation: An Action Research Project
Authors: Amy V Benstead, Linda C Hendry, Mark Stevenson
Journal: International Journal of Operations & Production Management
Publication Date: 27 July, 2018
Department of: Materials
An investigation into collaboration amongst brands and retailers in the textiles and fashion industry in response to modern slavery legislation.
Modern slavery is an important global issue, which is affecting the textiles and fashion industry given the growing demand for cheap, fast fashion which can lead to worker exploitation. Researchers at The Universities of Manchester and Lancaster are probing how brands and retailers are responding to modern slavery legislation. The research focusses on five collaborative initiatives taken to tackle modern slavery (e.g. joint training and supplier audits) used by a multi £billion turnover company, along with its horizontal collaboration with 35 other brands/retailers (buyers). The research advances knowledge on the creation of socially sustainable competitive advantage (e.g. cost savings, knowledge sharing and enhanced reputation) through horizontal collaboration. A key breakthrough is in understanding how competing buyers collaborate with one another as previous research has focused on vertical collaboration between buyers and their suppliers, particularly in a socially sustainable supply chain context. Successful horizontal collaboration is dependent on both relational capital (e.g. trust and commitment) and effective (formal and informal) governance mechanisms (e.g. legislation and the involvement of non-governmental organisations and trade bodies). The research provides managers with examples of how successful collaborative relationships can be formed in response to new legislation. These rely on actors having a similar mind-set and being able to decouple their commercial and sustainability agendas, especially when direct competitors are involved. The research shows that working with non-business actors can facilitate collaboration and provide knowledge and resources important for overcoming uncertainty when responding to new legislation.
- Action research has been conducted for this investigation which has involved one of the researchers working closely with the focal company over a 20 month period. This method of research involves the researcher influencing practice and encouraging change.
- Horizontal collaboration is when organisations collaborate with their competitors.
- Modern slavery is an overarching term including slavery, human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage and the sale and exploitation of children.
- The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated in 2017 that 20.1 million people are victims of modern slavery (economic and state-imposed forced labour) globally.
- The ‘UK Modern Slavery Act’ was introduced in 2015 and requires organisations with a turnover of over £36 M to publish an annual statement regarding action that is being taken to tackle modern slavery in their supply chains.