An examination of UK companies' modern slavery disclosure practices: Does board gender diversity matter?

Moussa, T., Allam, A. and Elmarzouky, M. 2023. An examination of UK companies' modern slavery disclosure practices: Does board gender diversity matter? Business Strategy and The Environment. 32 (8), pp. 5382-5402. https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.3426

TitleAn examination of UK companies' modern slavery disclosure practices: Does board gender diversity matter?
TypeJournal article
AuthorsMoussa, T., Allam, A. and Elmarzouky, M.
Abstract

The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals persuade governments and businesses to fight modern slavery as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The UK government took the initiative by introducing the Modern Slavery Act in 2015. Despite this, little is known about how companies disclose information about their efforts to tackle modern slavery as required by the Act and the role of corporate governance as a determinant of modern slavery disclosure (MSD) levels. This study, therefore, investigates the extent to which companies engage in MSD and empirically examines the impact of board gender diversity (BGD) on MSD. Based on a content analysis of FTSE 100 companies' modern slavery statements during the 2016–2020 period, we find that MSD improved over time but is still relatively low. Our results show that companies pay less attention to the core practices of modern slavery, such as key performance indicators (KPIs), due diligence procedures, risk assessment and management, and training. This evidence suggests that companies tend to comply with the Act by focusing largely on symbolic structures rather than providing a comprehensive disclosure of their impacts on modern slavery practices to minimise regulatory risks and manage stakeholders' perceptions. We also find that boards with greater female representation have a positive and significant association with MSD. This finding is consistent with the gender socialisation theory in that women are more sensitive to communal values and ethics. Consequently, companies with a greater proportion of female directors are more transparent about their strategies and actions related to fighting modern slavery. Furthermore, a critical mass of at least four female directors is necessary before any positive impact on MSD can be observed. Our findings shed new light on this under-researched area and the role of female directors in addressing modern slavery risk and can be of interest to companies, policymakers, and other stakeholders.

KeywordsModern slavery disclosures
corporate governance
board gender diversity
gender socialisation theory
critical mass theory
sustainable development goals
JournalBusiness Strategy and The Environment
Journal citation32 (8), pp. 5382-5402
ISSN1099-0836
Year2023
PublisherWiley
Publisher's version
License
CC BY 4.0
File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.3426
Publication dates
Published online25 Apr 2023
Published in printDec 2023
ProjectAn examination of UK firms’ modern slavery disclosures: A gender socialisation theory perspective
FunderBA (British Academy)

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