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Adaptations to first-tier suppliers’ relational anti-slavery capabilities

Emberson, Caroline; Pinheiro, Silvia Maria; Trautrims, Alexander

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Silvia Maria Pinheiro


The purpose of this paper is to examine how first-tier suppliers in multi-tier supply chains adapt their vertical and horizontal relationships to reduce the risk of slavery-like practices.

Using Archer’s morphogenetic theory as an analytical lens, this paper presents case analyses adduced from primary and secondary data related to the development of relational anti-slavery supply capabilities in Brazilian–UK beef and timber supply chains.

Four distinct types of adaptation were found among first-tier suppliers: horizontal systemisation, vertical systemisation, horizontal transformation and vertical differentiation.

Research limitations/implications
This study draws attention to the socially situated nature of corporate action, moving beyond the rationalistic discourse that underpins existing research studies of multi-tier, socially sustainable, supply chain management. Cross-sector comparison highlights sub-country and intra-sectoral differences in both institutional setting and the approaches and outcomes of individual corporate actors’ initiatives. Sustainable supply chain management theorists would do well to seek out those institutional entrepreneurs who actively reshape the institutional conditions within which they find themselves situated.

Practical implications
Practitioners may benefit from adopting a structured approach to the analysis of the necessary or contingent complementarities between their, primarily economic, objectives and the social sustainability goals of other, potential, organizational partners.

Social implications
A range of interventions that may serve to reduce the risk of slavery-like practices in global commodity chains are presented.

This paper presents a novel analysis of qualitative empirical data and extends understanding of the agential role played by first-tier suppliers in global, multi-tier, commodity, supply chains.


Emberson, C., Pinheiro, S. M., & Trautrims, A. (2022). Adaptations to first-tier suppliers’ relational anti-slavery capabilities. Supply Chain Management, 27(4), 575-593.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 16, 2021
Online Publication Date Aug 27, 2021
Publication Date May 6, 2022
Deposit Date Apr 23, 2021
Publicly Available Date Aug 27, 2021
Journal Supply Chain Management
Print ISSN 1359-8546
Electronic ISSN 1359-8546
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 4
Pages 575-593
Keywords Supply-chain management; Supplier relationships; Sustainability; Emerging Economies; Collaboration; Case Studies
Public URL
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