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Patagonia: Tackling Human Trafficking in Global Supply Chains

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This case is based on Patagonia’s journey to eliminate human trafficking and forced labor from their supply chain. The case takes students through Patagonia’s discovery of forced labor and debt bondage amongst their suppliers in Taiwan and later in Thailand, allowing students to examine their decisions about how to best approach these issues.

The case goes through the company’s Social and Environmental Responsibility (SER)  team’s initiatives to ensure Patagonia’s suppliers maintain ethical business and employment practices. In 2011, the SER team proactively conducted social responsibility audits with their Tier 2 supplying mills and factories in Taiwan. The audits revealed multiple cases of human trafficking, forced labor including debt bondage, and other forms of labor exploitation among the migrant workers employed by the Tier 2 Taiwanese factories. Between 2011-2017, the SER employees worked hard alongside their factory partners to identify the changes that needed to be made to put an end to the forced labor and debt bondage uncovered by the 2011 audits. Multiple initiatives were launched during this time, such as comprehensive Migrant Worker Employment Standards and a “Roadmap to No Fees by 2020.”

Despite this, in 2019, Patagonia discovered that illegal and exploitative employment practices were still being utilized in a Tier 1 sewing factory in Thailand. At this point, the SER team faced new challenges and decisions.


Learning Objective:

With this case, students will be able to explore topics relating to global supply chains, human trafficking, forced labor, ESG disclosures, and corporate social responsibility.

Through the case, students will study a real-life example of a company’s unique approach to tackling issues of human trafficking, forced labor and debt bondage in their supply chain. This will be explored within the broader context of ESG trends, changing customer and regulatory expectations, and evolving perspectives on the role of a company. Students will be able to place themselves in the shoes of Patagonia’s SER team and analyse the benefits and drawbacks of different approaches to eliminating human trafficking and forced labor from their suppliers’ practices and creating industry-wide change. Students will understand corporate responsibility models from the perspective of leadership, marketing, and public disclosure.


Year of Publication: 2021
Ref. No.: 21/713C
Discipline: Knowledge and Human Resource Management, Production & Operations Management, Public Policy and Strategy, Social Enterprises & Ethics
Industry: Consumer Goods, Retail & Wholesale
Country: Taiwan, Thailand, United States of America
Company: Patagonia
Languages: English
Pages of Text: 9