A new report released jointly today by the Office of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab takes a close look at modern slavery, environmental destruction and climate change as interconnected crises.  The study reveals the ways in which these three areas are intrinsically linked, strongly supporting the argument that it is vital for them to be routinely considered as connected issues and tackled with holistic strategies.


The report critically reviews and assesses the current state of knowledge on this nexus across academic and non-academic literature considering previously disparate literature. It finds that the nexus between modem slavery, climate change and environmental destruction:


  • Emerges sectorally: In the examined literature, research on the nexus has tended to be examined through four key sectors (fisheries, fields, forests and factories), associated with particular regions.

  • Links to debt-bondage: Existing evidence suggests that many instances of debt-bondage are connected with local and global environmental destruction, notably in South-Asian brick-kilns, small-scale mining and Thai fisheries.

  • Links to unregulated and informal industries: Research suggests that both types of industry are often connected with the simultaneous abuse of environmental conditions and labour rights.

  • Links to climate-induced migration: Research has begun to make linkages between the vulnerabilities of climate change-driven rural-urban migrants and trafficking and modern slavery practices in urban centres.

  • Flows through global production networks: It is suggested that flows of cheap and abundant commodities to the Global North are maintained through the exploitation of both labour and environment in the Global South.


This review of existing knowledge acts as a starting point for future research on this relationship and there remains much to be unpacked. Based on gaps in the literature, it proposes a number of research agendas for those seeking to further interrogate the subject. Further examinations of this evident nexus will engender a movement beyond silos of knowledge and practice, notably in relation to interactions between the Sustainable Development Goals.


The full report can be found here.