Researchers will explore how governments can integrate climate change and modern slavery policies to better protect people

Tuesday, 06 June 2023

Modern slavery experts and geographers at the University of Nottingham have won funding to investigate how the UK government can better protect people exposed to the impacts of both modern slavery and climate change by integrating associated policies.

Funded by the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (Modern Slavery PEC), academics from the university’s Rights Lab and School of Geography are working with antislavery organisations Transparentem and International Justice Mission (IJM UK).

As climate change increases in severity and occurrence, the vulnerability of populations already subject to economic and social exploitation increases, as people are pushed into more desperate situations to survive and provide for their families.

Understanding the intersection between anti-slavery interventions and climate change mitigation is key to the project. The experts will explore how the UK government and devolved administrations can enhance support for people by combining policies, known as mainstreaming, to address the interrelated issues.

Researchers will draw together expertise on both modern slavery and climate change by evaluating current legislation, gathering evidence on countries that have produced effective actions, stakeholder mapping and focus groups with government departments. They will develop a risk assessment which will look at the unintended consequences of climate policies that increase modern slavery risk and will recommend areas for improvement and new potential actions to address climate change and modern slavery.

Dr Bethany Jackson, in the Rights Lab, is leading the project - she said: "“In order to address climate change, the effects of modern slavery must be accounted for. The UK showed global leadership in these areas by introducing the Modern Slavery Act (2015) and during COP26 in Glasgow."

Bethany Jackson
It is exciting to be leading a project with world-leading potential, addressing the actions that the Government and devolved administrations can take on this intersecting work – and we aim to provide meaningful policy change to strengthen the UK's position as a leader in both fields.
Dr Bethany Jackson, Senior Research Fellow in Modern Slavery and Sustainable Ecosystems at the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab

Jonathan Mead, Director of Investigations at Transparentem, said: “We are thrilled to partner with Rights Lab and IJM on this project, leveraging our experience investigating and driving positive change on human rights and environmental abuses in global supply chains to help inform policy innovations at this nexus in the UK. We believe this represents an incredibly exciting opportunity for the UK to lead ground-breaking policy initiatives to tackle both issues."

Mary Sebastian, Program Impact Specialist, IJM UK, said: “Through International Justice Mission’s frontline work to stop modern slavery, we have seen how the violent practice of slavery often goes hand-in-hand with environmental destruction; as well, we've seen how climate-induced forced migration increases vulnerability to trafficking and exploitation. This critical research will explore the need for the convergence of climate change and modern slavery policies in the UK, while meaningfully raising the profile of the nexus of both issues in discussions beyond. We are looking forward to seeing the outcomes of this project with the Rights Lab and Transparentem.”

The research team is led by Dr Bethany Jackson in the Rights Lab and made up of: Dr Meghan Alexander, Assistant Professor in Human Geography (School of Geography); Vicky Brotherton Rights Lab Head of Policy Engagement and Impact; Dr Doreen Boyd, Professor of Earth Observation (School of Geography); and Esther Weir, Rights Lab Research Fellow in Antislavery Civil Society.

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Bethany Jackson in the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham at 

Katie Andrews - Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Social Sciences
Phone: 0115 951 5751

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.

We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

More news…

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
YANG Fujia Building
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798