Original Research

Child slavery in supply chains: Actors of the dirty scene

Maryam Lotfi, Noleen Pisa
Journal of Transport and Supply Chain Management | Vol 18 | a942 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jtscm.v18i0.942 | © 2024 Maryam Lotfi, Noleen Pisa | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 May 2023 | Published: 10 January 2024

About the author(s)

Maryam Lotfi, Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom; and Department of Transport and Supply Chain Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Noleen Pisa, Department of Transport and Supply Chain Management, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Child slavery in global supply chains is a complex problem because it involves various supply chain actors, including corporations, at different tiers, and external organisations and society. Many corporate sustainability on child labour, present a unilateral perspective which renders the development of child labour measures under the leadership of many companies tardy and inefficient.

Objectives: This study conducted a comprehensive investigation into child slavery in supply chains to identify the key actors that can combat child slavery in the supply chain.

Method: Thematic analysis of peer-reviewed journal articles, containing the keywords; child labour; supply chain, and child slavery; used interchangeably, based on three inclusion criteria; high frequency of relevant keywords; recent publication period; and high number of citations, was conducted.

Results: Four main actors and their influence on child slavery were identified namely i.). Corporations - through industrial characteristics, strategy, corporate social responsibility obligations, and internal stakeholders; ii.). Governments – through regulations, policies, and intentions to combat child slavery; iii.). Societies - through the establishment of social benchmarks and social accountability frameworks to address the social crisis; and iv.). External organisations - such as ILO, NGOs and trade unions as the dominant actors in combatting the child slavery phenomena in supply chains.

Conclusion: The findings provide a nascent conceptual model for empirical work and a foundation for descriptive and normative research on child slavery in supply chains.

Contribution: The study’s contribution is the assessment of the child slavery phenomenon using a multi-stakeholder perspective to gain a better understanding of the dynamics associated with child slavery.


child slavery; key actors; combatting child slavery; supply chains; social sustainability

JEL Codes

J47: Coercive Labor Markets

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth


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