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The Global Supply Chain Law and Governance Research Network

Global Supply Chaines 425x280Background Information

Since September 2016, the Transnational Law Institute has embarked on the development of a Global Supply Chain Law & Governance Research Network (‘The Network’), a trans-jurisdictional research-practice-policy network that provides a platform for researchers, practitioners and policy actors to explore complex issues pertaining to the regulation and governance of global supply chains. Complementing a number of research groups in the areas of climate change, transnational law school reform and human rights advocacy, the Network aims to build comprehensive bridges between theory and practice as well as between legal and non-legal disciplines in order to contribute to the critical theorisation of global supply chains. It also seeks to provide an opportunity for foundational clarification and thought exchange, the sharing of experiences in the context of existing projects as well as the coordination of joint research projects; and to develop and identify examples and experiments of how to transfer supply chain governance related insights into the law school classroom.

The Network is coordinated by TLI Associate Fellow Dr Liliane Mouan and Research Fellow Laura Knöpfel.



Legal regimes, labour rights and special economic zones: Strategies towards inclusive industrial development

This multidisciplinary project seeks to generate a systemic account of the impacts of special economic zones (SEZs) from socio-legal and political-economic perspectives. Globalisation has seen an increasing number of governments promoting SEZs as a key element of their industrial strategy to boost foreign investment and enhance exports. However, these popular trade policies have had mixed records. While they have led to increased wages in some parts of the world (e.g. China), in others they appear to have given rise to exploitation and inequality marked by long hours, unsafe conditions, pay discrimination and the denial of fundamental labour and personal rights.  Focusing on Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Ethiopia, the collaborating investigators ask:

What are the local effects of the proliferation and structures of export processing zones on manufacturing workers?

What roles do different norms, business practices and legal regimes - tax, trade, investment, labour and corporate - play in shaping patterns of rights violations that are widespread in SEZs?

How do SEZs work as spaces of exceptionalism? For instance, what type of society are they re-producing and

how do they effect life outside the SEZ?

Finally, what policies and regulatory approaches would need to be adopted to address these issues and ensure that SEZs contribute to inclusive industrial development within and outside SEZs?

This project is funded by the King’s Together Fund. It brings together scholars who combine competencies in law and anthropology, investment law and policy, geography, political economy, trade governance, development and migration studies.


Transformative scales – multi-level legal method in global law

This collaborative research project arises out of the need for legal practitioners and scholars to understand the multiple scales through which global legal relations take place, and how the movement of a dispute across scales transforms the framing and nature of the dispute itself. It seeks to compare and evaluate how this transformative scaling operates across various areas of law, namely: labour rights in global supply chains, domestic violence and human rights discourses, and social rights in the global waste trade. The collaborators seek to address three specific questions:

How do legal conflicts and discourses transform as they move between different institutional scales (local, national, regional, international, and global)?

What impact does this scalar movement have on the normative instruments, legal personae and the legal processes involved?

What are the side effects of transformative scaling on the justice concerns of localized communities and hierarchies of authority?

This project was funded by the Law Schools Global League.


The politics of corporate accountability in global supply chains

The aim of this project is to identify, map and analyse policy, legal and regulatory frameworks developed to enhance corporate accountability for human rights abuses in global supply chains. The project seeks to provide deep insights into the design, scope and enforcement of these frameworks as well as into the roles and responsibilities of the cascade of actors involved in the policy- and law-making processes at the domestic and international levels.



11 April 2018

As part of the inaugural King’s transnational Law Summit, the Transnational Law Institute organised a series of events that examined key challenges to transnational labour governance and the transnational regulatory governance in global supply chains.

Topic 1: The Futures of Corporate Social Responsibility: Global Supply Chains, Voluntary Codes, Enforcement Gaps

Supply chain management involves numerous stakeholders in the outsourcing of non-core activities to the developing world, from governments and NGOs to consumers, shareholders and trade unions – all with different levels of investment in environmental and economic justice and supply chain sustainability. Is there now a chance of placing sufficient pressure on multinational corporations (and other agencies where a deficit of accountability has been observed) to ensure they meet their CSR commitments? 

Moderator: Phillip Paiement (Tilburg Law School)

Speakers:  Justine Nolan (University of New South Wales, Sydney), Scott Nova (Worker Rights Consortium) and Robert McCorquodale (University of Nottingham)


Topic 2: Can We Eradicate the Business of Forced Labour by 2030? 

This session considers whether it is possible, and if so, what it would take, to end the business of forced labour by 2030 as is promised by target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals. The session will explore the underlying causes of forced labour, including the global political economy dynamics of contemporary labour exploitation. It will identify gaps in current legal, policy and regulatory frameworks that seek to eliminate the business demand of forced labour at the national and international levels; and analyse the role of collective organising, trade unions, corporations and political leadership in combating labour exploitation in global supply chains. 

Moderator: Andrew Crane (University of Bath)

Speakers:  Kevin Hyland OBE (Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner), Alison Campbell (Department for International Development), Genevieve LeBaron (University of Sheffield) and Cindy Berman (Ethical Trading Initiative)

This session was organised in partnership with OpenDemocracy’s BeyondSlavery project. You can view our partner’s interviews with Kevin Hyland OBE and Cindy Berman here and here.


Topic 3: Labour Interventions & Prospects of Labour Law

The first panel on labour and work responded to the changes in the organisation of work and workers’ recent support of ‘illiberal democracies’, and ended by asking whether the old categories of 'worker' and 'labour' will survive into the possible futures of capitalism. How are workers and their groups responding to the changing organisation and conditions of work? How do the experiences and activities differ in the global north and global south? Will the trade union, the main unit of worker organisation and expression during the 20th century, play a role? What are alternative forms of worker organisation, from worker-owned and controlled structures to workers action centres? What are the conditions, skills or identities that permit such organisations? What are the legal and political expressions associated with these alternative forms of organising workers? Are the normative objectives of ‘labour law’ still desirable, and can they be met by alternative models of organising and modes of regulation?

Moderator: Simon Archer (York University & Goldblatt Partners LLP)

Speakers: Dario Azzellini (Cornell University), Ewan McGaughey (King’s College London) and Alessandra Mezzadri (SOAS, University of London)


Topic 4: From Panama to Paradise & Beyond: Illicit Flows, Tax Justice & Global Development

This is an important moment in global tax scholarship and activism. The diversity of scholars and activists working within taxation is exceeded only by the level of public interest in the apparent disconnect between democratic politics, transnational legal structures, and taxation. The potential of forging connections between the development of a truly sustainable future and both supra-governmental, and domestic, tax choices appears closer than ever, even as concern over existing legal frameworks intensifies. Inspired by the theme of this Summit, this panel will consider specifically the potential for human development through Labour, Work and Action; and, frankly pragmatic choices within the tax global legal order that might redress apparently intransigent inequalities.

Moderator: Ann Mumford (King’s College London)

Speakers:  John Christensen (Tax Justice Network), Mary Footer (University of Nottingham), Tommaso Faccio (The Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation), Liz Campbell (University of Durham) and Kathleen Lahey (Queen's University, Ontario)

You can listen to the panel discussion here.


15 May 2018

Topic: Corruption and Illicit Financial Flows in the Extractive Industry Value Chain: What Have We Learned and Where Do We Go From Here?

Conveners: Liliane Mouan (King’s College London), Alex Cobham & Liz Nelson (Tax Justice Network)

Tax Justice 2 425x280

The extractive sector is one of the largest economic sectors in many developing countries, but it is also prone to corrupt and other practices such as trade mispricing and tax evasion. Indeed, as the Paradise Papers and recent scandals show, corruption in the sector has not diminished by any marked sense. It involves major producer countries (such as Brazil and Nigeria, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo) and multinational companies (Shell, Glencore and Haliburton); occurs in conjunction with other sectors (among which the financial and infrastructure sectors); and thrives with the apparent complicity of leading financial centres and commodity trading hubs (Switzerland and the United Kingdom). Most significantly, corruption in the extractive sector often has deeply damaging consequences, particularly in resource-rich-yet-poor countries where corruption and a dependency on natural resource rents tend to lead to lack of public accountability, the erosion of trust in state institutions, political, social and economic instability.

What, then, explains the persistence of corruption and illicit financial flows in the extractive industries value chains? What do recent events and scandals reveal about the drivers, nature and consequences of corruption related to the extractive industries? What is the scale of the problem? Who are the main stakeholders involved in the facilitation of this ‘new’, transnationalised form of corruption? How effective are current anti-corruption regimes at tackling this problem and, importantly, what more needs to be done to harness the potential of natural resource wealth for inclusive and sustainable development?

Tax Justice 425x280

This invitation-only workshop explored the links between the extractive industries, corruption, taxation and global development. The workshop examined the phenomena known as the “resource curse” and the “finance curse” and investigated the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholder constituencies in “home” and “host” countries. It brought together scholars, NGO activists and policymakers with lawyers and experts in the governance of global commodity and wealth value chains, in the hope of gaining a fuller, more coherent picture of the landscape and future prospects of existing regulatory approaches and experiences. 

See the full programme here.


11-12 June 2018

Topic: Transformative Scales: Towards a Method for Multi-Level Legal Conflicts

This event was funded by the Transnational Law Institute and the Law Schools Global League (LSGL). See the full programme here.

Conveners: Phillip Paiement (Tilburg University), Saptarshi Mandal (Jindal University), Natalia Ángel-Cabo (Universidad de los Andes), Peer Zumbansen (King’s College London) and Liliane Mouan (King’s College London)


9-10 July 2018

Topic: Chinese Investment in Developing-Country Special Economic Zones: Impacts on Labour and Migration

This event was sponsored by the King’s Together Fund. See the programme here.

Conveners: Liliane Mouan (Transnational Law Institute), Charlotte Goodburn & Jan Knoerich (Lau China Institute).


In the Autumn Semester 2017, the Transnational Law Institute hosted a Seminar Series under the theme ‘Locating Criminal Accountability in International and Transnational Law’. The seminars examined shifts in the location of criminal accountability for international and transnational crimes: from international to domestic courts; and from a focus on the accountability of senior military, political and religious leaders to an increased interest in corporate criminal liability. These issues were analysed through various cases, including the following.

30 October 2017

Topic: Corporate Complicity in Colombia

Speakers: Dr Camilo Sánchez León(DeJusticia), Professor Leigh Payne(University of Oxford), Laura Bernal-Bermudez(University of Oxford) and Professor Rodrigo Uprimny(DeJusticia & National University of Colombia)

13 November 2017

Topic: The Marikana Massacre in South Africa

Speakers: Athandiwe Saba(award-winning South African journalist), Kathleen Hardy(Socio- economic Rights Institute of South Africa) and Robyn Leslie(King’s College London) followed by an exclusive screening of the film ‘Strike a Rock’.

20 November 2017

Topic: The Case of LafargeHolcim in Syria

Speakers: Claire Tixeire(European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights) and Marie-Laure Guislain(Sherpa - Globalisation and Human Rights Programme)


10-11 November 2016

Topic: Labour Regulation in Global Supply Chains: Ethnography, Advocacy, Campaigning and Critical Pedagogy

With global supply chain governance having attracted significant interest among management, organisation and regulation scholars, this exploratory event sought to focus on the interplay between different layers of supply chain regulation, local/domestic and international, ‘hard’ and ‘soft’, as well as between different sets of stakeholder-oriented norms, ranging from labour to human rights and from corporate accountability to environmental sustainability standards. Its principal goal was to launch a conversation between different experts to identify the key categories and avenues as well as the practicalities in fostering this kind of theory-practice interaction.

Over the course of 1.5 days, the workshop showcased a host of expert-driven accounts, provided an opportunity for foundational clarification and thought exchange, the sharing of experiences in the context of existing projects as well as the coordination of next steps. The workshop and the larger research project of which it is a part, set out to question the boundaries between academic ‘research’ and theoretical work on global supply chains, on the one hand, and litigation, advocacy and campaigning, on the other. Emphasis was equally placed on how to facilitate the implementation of input-from practice insights into classroom case studies and syllabus development.

See the full programme here.

Conveners: Peer Zumbansen & Liliane Mouan (Transnational Law Institute, King’s College London)


Lorenzo Cotula and Liliane Mouan, ‘Special Economic Zones: Engines of Development or Sites of Exploitation?’, IIED Briefing, October 2018. See here.

Laura Knöpfel, ‘CSR Communication in Transnational Human Rights Litigations Against Parent Companies’, 2018. Available at

Alice Evans, ‘Hope for Reform: Strengthening Corporate Accountability in Global Supply Chains’, draft paper, May 2018.

Laura Knöpfel, ‘Contesting the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights from Below’, Swisspeace Working Paper 4/2017. Available here

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