Sustainable global supply chains: From transparency to due diligence

Kasey McCall-Smith, Andreas Ruhmkorf

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In recent years, global supply chains have repeatedly been in the spotlight for gross violations of human rights at supplier factories. Those factories are often located in countries of the developing world with weak laws and/or weak law enforcement mechanisms. Due to public pressure and on reputational grounds, transnational corporations have, for some decades now, addressed those issues through voluntarily adopted private governance CSR initiatives. However, reports about gross human rights violations are recurrent. Therefore, discussions at both international and national level are now increasingly focussing on the topic of supply chain due diligence as a way to better promote responsible behaviour. Following international law approaches to addressing CSR in global supply chains, there are now variable legislative measures designed to ensure sustainable supply chains. A number of these measures focus on the due diligence obligations of TNCs based in the home state’s jurisdiction. This trend is partly due to the UN Guiding Principles on Businesses and Human Rights (UNGPs) and its emphasis on business fulfilling due diligence as part of its responsibility to respect human rights as well as the focus on due diligence by a variety of other CSR frameworks. The different legislative measures have varying levels of stringency and varying effects on corporate behaviour in terms of sustainable supply chains. This study focuses on the role of transparency legislation, namely the UK Modern Slavery Act and the US Dodd-Frank Act on conflict minerals, in supporting effective human rights due diligence in the management of sustainable supply chains.

This chapter will combine public international law perspectives on human rights due diligence in global supply chains with domestic law approaches. The paper will first navigate the meaning and scope of the concept of sustainability and due diligence in global supply chains. It will then explore due diligence from a public international law perspective by focussing on the concept in general international law as well as the most relevant soft law standards set down in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Finally, the chapter will critically engage with the domestic legislation intended to ‘harden’ the international human rights due diligence standards. It will consider the coherence of the governance mechanisms in the implementation of the identified transparency measures and consider if the means selected rectifies the power imbalance between the potential harm and the method of deterrence. It is intended that this chapter will contribute to the growing literature on due diligence in supply chain management in the field of business and human rights.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSustainable Trade, Investment, and Finance
Subtitle of host publicationToward Responsible and Coherent Regulatory Frameworks
EditorsClair Gammage, Tonia Novitz
PublisherEdward Elgar
ISBN (Electronic)9781788971041
ISBN (Print)9781788971034
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2019


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