Modern Day Slavery: Consumer Perspectives

The 10th seminar of the ESRC Ethics in Consumption: Interdisciplinary Perspectives series was held on 21 April 2017 at 11 Bedford Square in London and covered the theme of Modern Day Slavery: Consumer Perspectives.

It is estimated that at least 1,243,400 people are modern slaves across Europe. Many of these people are victims of human trafficking and are enslaved in industries such as domestic work, agriculture, restaurants/food service, and the sex trade, with women and girls representing the largest share of forced labour victims, working and living amongst us – in our local communities. Despite this physical – and often intimate – proximity, we fail to see them or their plight. These localised enslaved people remain invisible even when the distance between production and consumption has been bridged.

This seminar explored how we can, as affluent westernised consumers, remain blind to the plight of enslaved people when we are interacting with them in our everyday consumption lives, and how can this invisibility shrouding modern slaves in our communities be removed? This multi-stakeholder/disciplinary seminar explored and respond to these important questions.

Guest speakers include Aidan McQuade, Director of Anti-Slavery; Phil Bloomer, Executive Director of Business and Human Rights Resource Centre; David Capperauld, Co-Founder of SP Sourcing; Professor Rohit Varman, Deakin University; and Cindy Berman, Head of Knowledge and Learning. An additional guest speaker will be confirmed in due course.


Watch interviews with our guest speakers about what they consider are the criterial issues for consumers or companies in relation to modern day slavery, and find out more about their background in this area.

Aidan McQuade

Modern Day Slavery - an interview with Aiden McQuade

Seminar 10: Modern Day Slavery: Consumer PerspectivesDr Aidan McQuade has been Director of Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest international human rights organisation, since 2006. Dr McQuade’s experience is steeped in humanitarian response, development and human rights. During his tenure at Anti Slavery International, notable achievements have included:

  • the introduction of a new statute to British law proscribing forced labour and changing British common law to protect the rights of victims of trafficking,
  • working with the British Government to instate a special UN rapporteur on slavery,
  • working with partners to establish new international laws on forced labour, and
  • the exposure of slavery in the manufacture of garments for Western high street brands.

Anti Slavery International played a leading role in the inclusion of victim protection and supply chain transparency measures in the UK Modern Slavery Act (2015).

Dr McQuade is a frequent contributor to international newspapers and journals on issues relating to slavery and human rights. He serves on the board of the Ethical Trading Initiative and for the Register of Engineers for Disaster Relief (REDR. He is also a patron of Dalit Solidarity Network UK.

Phil Bloomer

Modern Day Slavery – an interview with Phil Bloomer

Seminar 10: Modern SlaveryPhil became Executive Director of Business & Human Rights Resource Centre in September 2013. Based at the Centre’s London headquarters, Phil is responsible for leading the global organisation, delivering the mission and strategic priorities, and ensuring effective management of programme, personnel, finance, and administration.

Prior to joining the Resource Centre Phil was Director of Campaigns and Policy at Oxfam GB, where he was responsible for a team of 170 staff working across policy, advocacy, programme and campaigns. His team’s priorities were food justice, humanitarian protection and assistance in conflict zones, and the provision of essential health and education for all. Previously he was head of Oxfam International’s Make Trade Fair, and Access to Medicines campaigns.

Prior to joining Oxfam, Phil spent 11 years in Latin America and worked on human rights dimensions of business, including in food security, resource extraction; mega-projects; and business relations with public and private security in repressive environments.

David Capperauld

Modern Day Slavery – an interview with David Capperauld

ESRC Ethics in Consumption: Modern SlaveryDavid has a wealth of knowledge of end-to-end sourcing and supply processes, built over a career that began at British Aerospace nearly 30 years ago. CIPS-qualified, he’s worked with organisations in numerous sectors, helping them treat ethical sourcing as a core business issue that delivers real bottom-line value.

Co-founder David brings all of his experience to our Ethical Leadership and Sourcing services. His expertise enables our clients to develop their strategic thinking around ethical and sustainable sourcing, so that it seamlessly integrates into their wider organisational objectives.

Professor Rohit Varman

Modern Day Slavery – an interview with Professor Rohit Varman

Rohit Varman profile photo‌Rohit Varman is a Professor of Marketing at Deakin University. Before moving to Australia, he taught in India and United Kingdom. He received his PhD in Marketing from University of Utah and MBA from McGill University.

His research interests are broadly in the fields of Critical Marketing and Consumer Culture. He is currently working on a book on history of marketing in India and an edited book on Critical Marketing. He is also working on research projects in the areas of social impact of marketization, advertising, postcolonial theory, subaltern consumption, and violence in markets. His research paper was recently awarded Emerald Citation of Excellence for 2015.

He has published his research in several journals that include Journal of Consumer Research, Human Relations, Journal of Retailing, Organization Science, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, Journal of Marketing Management, and Marketing Theory.

He serves as Associate Editor of Consumption, Markets & Culture and on the editorial boards of Journal of Macromarketing and Journal of Historical Research in Marketing. He is President-Elect of International Society of Markets and Development.

Cindy Berman

Modern Day Slavery – an interview with Cindy Berman

Profile photo of Cindy Berman. Seminar 10: Modern SlaveryCindy is the Head of Knowledge & Learning at the Ethical Trading Initiative. She leads ETI’s training, monitoring, research and evaluation department, and leads its work on modern slavery and labour exploitation. Prior to joining ETI in 2014, she spent 10 years at the UK Department for International Development as Senior Social Development Advisor, working in Asia and Africa on global and regional policy and programmes. In this role she led a £10m five-year programme on prevention of human trafficking of women and girls from South Asia and the Middle East in domestic work and the garment sector.

Cindy has worked on human rights, gender equality and social justice issues throughout her career in different organisations and countries. She has held positions at the United Nations working for the ILO, the UK National Health Service, at the Commonwealth Secretariat and a number of civil society organisations. She is from South Africa, and after completing university there, worked in national and community based organizations in the struggle against apartheid before coming to the UK.

Further information: Ethical Trading Initiative

ETI is a leading alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs that promotes respect for workers’ rights around the globe. Its vision is a world where all workers are free from exploitation and discrimination, and enjoy conditions of freedom, security and equity.

Global supply chains are complex and challenging for companies committed to trading ethically. Workers’ rights issues are often deep-rooted and widespread and are best tackled through collaborative action. We harness the expertise, skills and resources of our alliance members to identify these issues and develop innovative, long-lasting solutions. Our work is focused on initiatives, policies and actions that enable workers to access their rights at work and to negotiate effectively for improved working conditions.

ETI holds companies to account in meeting their obligations as ETI members to demonstrate year-on-year improvements in relation to the ETI Base Code – demonstrating changes in their business operations and throughout their supply chains. ETI convenes and facilitates collaboration between companies to enable them to work together to tackle improvements to working conditions in particular sectors, industries and countries, and to engage with diverse stakeholders that have a critical role to play in enabling workers to access their rights. It provides a collective platform for its members to advocate with governments for legislative and policy changes, and also demonstrates effective collaborative action through its supply chain programmes.

ETI also provides advice, training, guidance and resources on ethical trade issues – enabling lesson-learning, information sharing and initiating research to build on existing promising initiatives, partner with relevant institutions, and contribute to the global public evidence base on ethical trade, identifying what works and why.