Collective Responsibility and the Limits of Disclosure in Regulating Global Supply Chains


  • Charlotte Villiers



Global supply chains present major challenges for company law and corporate governance, nationally and internationally. Their increasing relevance in international business has led to a serious regulatory gap, especially in light of corporate involvement in human rights abuses, labour exploitation and environmental degradation. Alongside a number of international norms such as those expressed in the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, there has been a proliferation in domestic and international law of disclosure provisions, mandating greater transparency by companies in response to the problems caused by global supply chains. In this paper, however, it is argued that disclosure is not a sufficient answer to such problems. It is suggested that we should approach the problems with a different conceptualisation of supply chain structures. If we regard them as ‘global poverty chains’, such a perspective brings about a moral response — a recognition that we have a collective responsibility to eradicate the poverty and suffering caused by the chains. This response necessitates that transparency requirements be altered and accompanied by a regulatory framework that empowers victims of poverty to be able to escape it.