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Eliminating modern slavery from projects

Why was the research undertaken? 

Modern slavery involves the recruitment, movement, harbouring or receiving of people through any means for the purpose of exploitation. It is an extensive problem and one that causes immense human suffering. International Labour Organization figures suggest that there are 24 million victims of modern slavery or forced labour around the world at any one time, with a substantial proportion of these working on project-related activities.

Modern slavery causes reputational risk to organisations from the perspective of customers and investors. In the UK, it is now subject to specific legislation. The damage and costs of legal action and compensation to victims of modern slavery can be crippling. Projects are particularly susceptible to modern slavery as they have complex flows of materials and labour that need to be constantly reinvented for each unique project context.

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How to cite this research
Brookes, N. et al.(2020). Eliminating Modern Slavery from Projects. Association for Project Management.

What did the study seek to achieve and how was it carried out?

APM sponsored a research investigation through its APM Research Fund involving the University of Warwick, the University of Leeds and University College London to help awareness of this important issue and to understand how project practices need to change to eliminate modern slavery.

In order to answer this question, the research team undertook a Delphi exercise with experts representing project practitioners (e.g. from organisations such as HS2 and Sir Robert McAlpine), NGOs (e.g. The Bingham Centre and The Institute for Human Rights and Business) and professional membership organisations (e.g. The International Association for Cost and Contract Management and the Royal Institute of British Architects), as well as academic researchers and individual experts.

Intended audience

We hope the report will be of interest to project professionals and organisations involved in practical project delivery, academics and researchers engaged in modern slavery and multi stakeholder initiatives or research and for professional bodies amongst others.

Findings and recommendations

The research found that the key to eliminating modern slavery is to give individuals working on projects the competence and confidence to spot modern slavery and to know what to do when this occurs. This requires support at an organisational, sectoral and legislative level. The full report explore how to do this in more detail.

The report recommends:

  • For academics: Follow-on work looking at application frameworks and further exploring the role of multi-stakeholder initiatives for eliminating modern slavery.
  • For project practitioners: Cost-effective solutions for eliminating modern slavery that ‘piggy-back’ on existing project practice and project governance.
  • For professional membership organisations: Recognition of their key role in seeking to eliminate modern slavery in projects and a promoting proposals for doing that at organisational and individual levels.
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