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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge


Alexandra Kunde

Multinationals' Contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals Through Their Supply Chains

Child labour, modern slavery, low remuneration and excessive work hours, and health and safety issues remain a large worldwide problem in work places. This inhibits the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Through their supply chains, multinational companies from high-income countries can influence work conditions in their lower-tier suppliers, where these issues are prevalent.

Therefore, this research aims to identify supply chain practices that improve labour conditions while providing an economic benefit to multinationals. This is done through a review of academic literature, private sector websites and NGO reports, with the review subsequently enhanced through expert interviews. With the aim of bridging a literature gap between in-depth analyses of individual practices and a holistic perspective, the identified practices are mapped onto a visualization of root causes and combined in a framework.

As a result, eight ethical supply chain practices were identified, such as long-term relationships, improved purchasing practices, and shared benefit opportunities. The framework can contribute to shifting the thinking towards more collaboration in the supply chain. Furthermore, it provides a business case for individual practices towards a more sustainable supply chain. This can motivate multinationals that are not value-driven to engage in a socially responsible supply chain and to tap into their resources to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.