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Dignity-Led Supply Chain Management: A Cross-Country and Cross-Industry Study of Workplace Dignity in Supply Chains

Funding Scheme

United Kingdom Research and Innovation Future Leader Fellowship



Project Overview

The project aims to change the way labour rights in supply chains are measured and managed by redirecting the attention to workplace dignity (WD) – a fundamental psychological benchmark – defined as a sense self-worth derived from workplace interactions. Violation of WD, by practices like overwork, bullying, abuse, humiliation and poor conditions, is a collective experience for millions of workers in companies’ global and domestic supply chains. Media, civil society and academic reports anecdotally show that there is a connection between a company’s sourcing practices and violation of WD in the supply chain. Thus, besides influencing the lives of workers in supply chains, violation of WD has serious and direct implications for companies’ productivity. It can cause significant negative impacts on workers’ commitment, health and wellbeing with a consequent decrease in supplier performance. 

Why this project?

WD is a key underlying principle of current business, government and civil society interventions aimed at protecting labour rights in supply chains. Yet, they fail to measure and manage WD in supply chains effectively. This is because these interventions rely on ‘one-size-fits-all’ labour standards and human rights conventions. In contrast, WD is a profoundly personal experience, and generic interventions can only address it to a limited extent. 

Besides an extensive policy interest in WD in supply chains, to date, there is no systematic investigation of how a company’s sourcing practices contribute to perceptions of WD for workers in their supplier facilities or its knock-on effect on the suppliers’ performance. Hence, there is a clear need to understand the relationship between sourcing practices, WD and supplier performance to build a compelling evidence base for further academic research as well as interventions for improving WD in supply chains. 

The Scope of the Project

The project, co-created in consultation with policymakers, businesses, civil societies, media and workers, aims to address this need by developing a Dignity-led Supply Chain Management (DSCM) framework, which makes WD central to supply chain management. Using novel and ambitious research design consisting of interviews, drawings, surveys and field experiments, research will be conducted in two radically contrasting sourcing locations of UK companies (UK and India) and work settings (Information Technology products and services, and Textile & Garments). Across these settings, the project will investigate: 

  1. what WD means to workers in supplier facilities; 
  2. how, when and why sourcing practices of UK companies influence perceptions of WD for workers in supplier facilities; 
  3. how, when and why workers’ perceptions of WD influence supplier performance; and
  4. the collaborative design of impactful toolkits and policies for improving WD in supply chains. 

By contributing to the improvement of WD in supply chains, the innovative DSCM framework will have a significant impact on not only the academic field but more importantly the lives of millions of workers in the UK and India who are directly involved in developing our products and services. Besides, the DSCM framework will help to address the most pressing productivity challenges facing the UK economy.  

Throughout the project, we will closely engage with international academic experts in management, cultural psychology, political science, sociology and law, and experts in business and human rights policy and practice.