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Klaas Eller, assistant professor of European Private Law (ACT), receives a Veni grant from the NWO Talent Programme for his project about the role of law in fostering sustainability and human rights in global supply chains. With the funding, he can conduct independent research and develop his ideas for a period of 3 years.

How do companies along global supply chains organize compliance with different regulations? How do they translate abstract rules into corporate practice and how can we use these insights to make global supply chains more sustainable? These are questions Klaas Eller wants to answer in his Veni-funded project

The regulation of corporate governance along supply chains has reached a critical juncture. A wave of recent regulations at the national, European and international level requires companies to respect sustainability and human rights in their own operations and along their supply chain. This is a significant normative development but has generated little effect in practice so far. Both legal and policy discourse have treated the ‘inside’ of supply chains largely as a ‘black-box’ and have paid little attention to the day-to-day legal, managerial and organizational practice. However, with regulations that leave much leeway at the implementation stage, these internal dynamics of supply chains become pivotal.

Missing link

The project provides the missing link between rules and compliance practices by identifying different techniques that supply chain actors use to legally ‘code’ their operations. The inquiry will allow a clear picture of where and how exactly regulatory requirements are being altered, watered down, or deflected. This requires a broad understanding of law based on socio-legal and legal ethnographic analysis, not only comprising contracts and legal doctrines but their entanglement with professional practices of involved legal counsels and managers and the tools they use, such as supply chain management IT.

Overall, the project ‘Recoding Global Production: Towards a Legal Ethnography of Sustainable Supply Chains’ opens a new chapter in the regulatory discussion around sustainable corporate governance by moving to the ‘practice’ of supply chains. This culminates, first, in concrete proposals for reform towards more effective sustainability and accountability, and second, in promoting a shift ‘from norms to practices’ in legal thought. 

NWO Veni

A Veni is an individual research grant of 280,000 Euro awarded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to early-career researchers.