global supply chain
As we increasingly see robots enter into our private and public lives and hear dramatic projections of mass automation, it's worth remembering that they have long been a reality in the world of manufacturing. Since the 1960s, large, industrial robots have been used in industries such as automotive, to speed up processes and relieve humans from more strenuous tasks. These gains inevitably led to growth, which in turn created more jobs.
When we think of those who are behind the heinous crime of modern slavery, we imagine ruthless criminals - traffickers who manipulate, abuse and exploit their victims; slave masters who withhold wages while forcing employers to work in inconceivable conditions. This is an accurate picture. But we must keep in mind that business leaders, unaware though they may be, often play a part.
The outrage at such severe abuses mirrors responses to human trafficking and 'modern day slavery', as all agree that exploitation should not have a place in our supply chains. But whether low pay or excessive hours, bonded labour or human trafficking, the common thread is profits trumping rights and talk in place of action.
For the past decade the aspiration has been to lower supply-chain costs through leaner and leaner operations.
It is M&S's obsession with cutting costs (rather than making money) that leads them to faraway lands in pursuit of ever cheaper wage rates (even though wages actually make up less than 10% of the cost of the garment).