I am interested in how businesses do (or don't do) good. In particular, I focus on how firms can protect the vulnerable in their supply networks. My work on these topics has investigated how companies use novel technologies such as blockchain and plant biomarkers to secure their supply chains and establish provenance, especially in food, and how organizations respond to legislation on modern slavery and human rights in the UK and Russia.
Areas of specialism
Affiliations and memberships
In the media
Purpose This paper examines the potential of "biomarkers" to provide immutable identification for food products (chocolate), providing traceability and visibility in the supply chain from retail product back to farm. Design/methodology/approach This research uses qualitative data collection, including fieldwork at cocoa farms and chocolate manufacturers in Ecuador and the Netherlands and semi-structured interviews with industry professionals to identify challenges and create a supply chain map from cocoa plant to retailer, validated by area experts. A library of biomarkers is created using DNA collected from fieldwork and the International Cocoa Quarantine Centre, holders of cocoa varieties from known locations around the world. Matching sample biomarkers with those in the library enables identification of origins of cocoa used in a product, even when it comes from multiple different sources and has been processed. Findings Supply chain mapping and interviews identify areas of the cocoa supply chain that lack the visibility required for management to guarantee sustainability and quality. A decoupling point, where smaller farms/traders' goods are combined to create larger economic units, obscures product origins and limits visibility. These factors underpin a potential boundary condition to institutional theory in the industry's fatalism to environmental and human abuses in the face of rising institutional pressures. Biomarkers reliably identify product origin, including specific farms and (fermentation) processing locations, providing visibility and facilitating control and trust when purchasing cocoa. Research limitations/implications The biomarker "meta-barcoding" of cocoa beans used in chocolate manufacturing accurately identifies the farm, production facility or cooperative, where a cocoa product came from. A controlled data set of biomarkers of registered locations is required for audit to link chocolate products to origin. Practical implications Where biomarkers can be produced from organic products, they offer a method for closing visibility gaps, enabling responsible sourcing. Labels (QR codes, barcodes, etc.) can be swapped and products tampered with, but biological markers reduce reliance on physical tags, diminishing the potential for fraud. Biomarkers identify product composition, pinpointing specific farm(s) of origin for cocoa in chocolate, allowing targeted audits of suppliers and identifying if cocoa of unknown origin is present. Labour and environmental abuses exist in many supply chains and enabling upstream visibility may help firms address these challenges. Social implications By describing a method for firms in cocoa supply chains to scientifically track their cocoa back to the farm level, the research shows that organizations can conduct social audits for child labour and environmental abuses at specific farms proven to be in their supply chains. This provides a method for delivering supply chain visibility (SCV) for firms serious about tackling such problems. Originality/value This paper provides one of the very first examples of biomarkers for agricultural SCV. An in-depth study of stakeholders from the cocoa and chocolate industry elucidates problematic areas in cocoa supply chains. Biomarkers provide a unique biological product identifier. Biomarkers can support efforts to address environmental and social sustainability issues such as child labour, modern slavery and deforestation by providing visibility into previously hidden areas of the supply chain.
There is a growing understanding that modern slavery is a phenomenon ‘hidden in plain sight’ in the home countries of multinational firms. Yet business scholarship on modern slavery has so far focused on product supply chains. To address this, we direct attention to the various institutional pressures on the UK construction industry, and managers of firms within it, around modern slavery risk for on-site labour. Based on a unique data set of 30 in-depth interviews with construction firm managers and directors, we identify two institutional logics as being integral to explaining how these companies have responded to the Modern Slavery Act: a market logic and a state logic. While the institutional logics literature largely assumes that institutional complexity will lead to a conciliation of multiple logics, we find both complementarity and continued conflict in the logics in our study. Though we identify conciliation between aspects of the market logic and the state logic, conflict remains as engagement with actions which could potentially address modern slavery is limited by the trade-offs between the two logics.
Purpose This paper investigates how organisations are responding to mandatory modern slavery disclosure legislation. Experimentalist governance suggests that organisations faced with disclosure requirements such as those contained in the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 will compete with one another, and in doing so, improve compliance. The authors seek to understand whether this is the case. Design/methodology/approach This study is set in the UK public sector. The authors conduct interviews with over 25% of UK universities that are within the scope of the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 and examine their reporting and disclosure under that legislation. Findings The authors find that, contrary to the logic of experimentalist governance, universities' disclosures as reflected in their modern slavery statements are persistently poor on detail, lack variation and have led to little meaningful action to tackle modern slavery. They show that this is due to a herding effect that results in universities responding as a sector rather than independently; a built-in incapacity to effectively manage supply chains; and insufficient attention to the issue at the board level. The authors also identity important boundary conditions of experimentalist governance. Research limitations/implications The generalisability of the authors' findings is restricted to the public sector. Practical implications In contexts where disclosure under the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 is not a core offering of the sector, and where competition is limited, there is little incentive to engage in a "race to the top" in terms of disclosure. As such, pro-forma compliance prevails and the effectiveness of disclosure as a tool to drive change in supply chains to safeguard workers is relatively ineffective. Instead, organisations must develop better knowledge of their supply chains and executives and a more critical eye for modern slavery to be combatted effectively. Accountants and their systems and skills can facilitate this development. Originality/value This is the first investigation of the organisational processes and activities which underpin disclosures related to modern slavery disclosure legislation. This paper contributes to the accounting and disclosure modern slavery literature by investigating public sector organisations' processes, activities and responses to mandatory reporting legislation on modern slavery.
The increasing focus on business and human rights (BHR) in civil society and policymaking has not been matched by research on corporate actions to respect and protect human rights. The lack of research on BHR is especially acute outside of Western Europe and Anglo-centric contexts. This paper seeks to investigate how the largest Russian firms conceptualize and fulfil their human rights obligations under the UN Guiding Principles and the extent to which internationalization of those firms may have impacted these behaviours. I use a unique dataset created from a sample made of the 100 largest firms listed on the Moscow Stock Exchange. Using the theoretical construct of institutional conflict, I find that cross-listing on other stock exchanges and the extent to which firms frame their broader social responsibility issues as 'sustainability' or 'sustainable development' rather than 'corporate social responsibility' has a substantial impact on firm attention to human rights. While this attention is encouraging, firm disclosure of actions taken to mitigate against violations and protect human rights is extremely limited and the strength of domestic institutional pressures has resulted in very little firm action in the face of the extreme and widespread human rights violations being committed in Ukraine by Russia.
Efforts to manage the climate impact of, and labour standards in, supply chains have often beenconducted in isolation. Organizations which negotiate and manage framework agreements for publicsector buyers, the scope of which includes sustainability management (Rogerson et al., 2020), are well placedto incorporate efforts to address both of these two issues concurrently, especially given their purchasing volume and overall spend. However, we know little of the impact of attempts to manage these risks simultaneously. Our paper therefore investigates supply chain management by a consortium which manages climate and modern slavery risks for members.
Traditionally, manufacturing organisations have operated in a linear economy with products manufactured from raw materials and the end product discarded once it reaches the end of its usefulness
As part of a European Union-funded project, we investigate why SMEs choose to adopt or not adopt blockchain in their operations. The study used the technological-organisational-environmental (TOE) framework to understand the challenges, enablers and barriers faced by small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) and their intention to adopt or to not adopt blockchain technology. A qualitative study involved interviews with SMEs and triad consultations session between blockchain technical experts, SMEs and researchers. Our findings suggest that SMEs find blockchain confusing and complex. Consequently, SMEs in our sample adopt the technology only where well-defined use cases can be used to attract larger clients or as a central function of the business model, rather than in addition to existing operations and supply chain uses. We believe this to be important because it means that SMEs will be less able to use blockchain as a disruptive source of competitive advantage against larger players.