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CLOSED: Funding call - modern slavery and climate change

Call for applications for research into modern slavery and climate change.

Published: 7th November 2022

The Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (Modern Slavery PEC) has issued a funding call for research on modern slavery and climate change

There is an increased understanding of the links between climate change and modern slavery, both in the vulnerabilities that climate change can create, and also in ensuring that actions taken to tackle climate change considers modern slavery as part of a just transition.

A previous Modern Slavery PEC Policy Brief set out the growing body of research looking at the nexus between modern slavery and climate change, which has identified a cyclical relationship between these issues, where social and environmental harms are intertwined:

  • Activities associated with biodiversity loss, environmental damage or which contribute to climate change have been shown to involve forced or child labour in certain contexts and sectors, such as deforestation in the Amazon and overfishing in the Thai seafood industry.
  • The impacts of climate change-induced events (such as drought and floods) are likely to increase vulnerability to modern slavery among low-income communities in the Global South through negative impacts on livelihoods.
  • Policies being enacted to respond to the threat of climate change, such as restricting polluting economic activity, may have unintentional impacts on those groups (the rural poor, marginalised communities) that are also at greatest risk from modern slavery.

Much of the existing evidence in this field looks at specific industries or population groups and considers how climate change impacts that group’s vulnerability to, or impact on, modern slavery. As such, we are looking to fund research that considers what works, or could work in improving policies and practices in this area. This should include lived experiences of affected communities throughout the work.

About this call

The aim of this call is to generate new evidence on how policies on climate change can recognise, address and impact on modern slavery risks or linkages between modern slavery and climate change.

While international aspects, such as laws, policies or supply chains, might be examined, applications to this call must generate recommendations for UK based policymakers and decision- makers, such as businesses.


All projects must meet objective A, and then must meet either objective B or C.

A: Develop evidence-based recommendations for policymakers and other decision-makers (such as businesses) about how policies on climate change can recognise, address and impact on modern slavery risks or linkages between modern slavery and climate change. Projects must:

  • Align to the Modern Slavery PEC’s guiding principles on research, addressing effectiveness, equity and involvement of people with lived experience of modern slavery.
  • Use innovative methods, including people with lived experience of modern slavery within the design and outputs of their work.
  • Generate evidence of what works or could work, relevant for a business or policy audience


B: Generate evidence to influence the Environmental Social Governance (ESG) policies and strategies of businesses and investors.

ESG is a set of standards across three key factors which measure a company’s impact on society, the environment and how transparent and accountable it is across these areas. These standards are often used by socially responsible investors to measure the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in a business or company. They are a subset of non-financial performance indicators which examine how businesses operate in relation to the natural environment (e.g. waste and pollution, carbon footprint); how the business treats people (e.g. human rights and labour standards); and how the company itself is governed (e.g. board diversity, and corruption and bribery).

  • Projects aiming to address this objective must work with one or a group of businesses or investors to co-develop and pilot a framework to track ESG policies and strategies to better connect environmental issues and impacts along with modern slavery risks, and how to address this combination of factors effectively. This should take account of existing obligations on large UK businesses under section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
  • Projects could include the generation (or testing, modifying existing) of standards, metrics, and/or performance indicators to enhance understanding and reporting on ESG strategies, which can more effectively connect environmental issues and impacts with modern slavery risks and offer recommendations on how to address these.
  • Projects may choose to adopt a sector-specific approach. In this case they should explain how the selection of sector/s was made, and include in the proposal a justification for this with reference to previous research and in terms of potential for the research to make a contribution.


C: Generate novel evidence on how modern slavery can be integrated into UK Government and devolved administration climate change policies (‘mainstreaming’).

Projects should consider policies such as net-zero, overseas aid funding for climate change programmes or policies around public procurement of goods and services in new industries and innovations that shape efforts to address climate change (e.g. renewable energy). Projects should consider how such climate change policies can reduce and respond to modern slavery risks. We would like to see applications covering at least one of the following:

  • A review of the effectiveness of mainstreaming other challenges (such as violence against women) into UK climate change policy and analysis of the implications for mainstreaming modern slavery
  • Comparative research on how other countries have mainstreamed modern slavery into climate change policies and analysis of the implications for UK policy
  • A rigorous mapping of the potential (inadvertent) modern slavery harms that climate change policies might give rise to or need to respond to, drawing out clear recommendations for UK climate change and modern slavery policies
  • Empirical evidence on how communities at risk of or affected by modern slavery can most effectively inform UK climate change policies and programmes


The successful applicant will confirm their methodology in collaboration with the Modern Slavery PEC. Applications much demonstrate the following components in their application:

  • Methodology is rigorous and appropriate to meet the research call objectives and feasible to deliver within the nine-month timeframe of the project
  • Methodology sets out a clear rationale for its approach to appropriate and meaningful involvement of people with lived experience of modern slavery in the research.

Type of funding

This call is part of the Modern Slavery PEC Responsive Research mechanism that has been created to fund responsive and agile research projects. It is led directly by the Modern Slavery PEC, but is funded and actively supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Working with the Modern Slavery PEC

In accordance with the Modern Slavery PEC’s strategic objective of facilitating collaboration, successful teams will work in collaboration with the Modern Slavery PEC throughout the project to ensure alignment with our objectives and to maximise impact. This will include developing the research methodology and developing outputs such as the full report and summary briefing, as well as their dissemination.

Budget and eligibility

The Modern Slavery PEC has allocated a maximum budget of £100,000 at 100% full economic cost (FEC) for this project. We expect to fund three projects for this work. Projects may be led by either a UK higher education institution, an approved research organisation eligible to receive UKRI funding or a charity registered in the UK. Project teams must include at least one academic or research organisation and one UK based third sector organisation.

  • Charities registered in the UK may apply for up to 50% of the project’s budget, they will be funded at 100% FEC (for every £1 spent, they receive £1 of funding, so the Modern Slavery PEC covers 100% of the full economic cost of the project)
  • International organisations are eligible to apply as partners to this call, they can receive a maximum budget of 30% and will also receive their funding at 100% FEC
  • The combined UK registered charity and international costs can account for a maximum of 50% of the total budget of the project

For full budget details, see the call document.

How to apply

You can find the full details and specification of the call in the call document below, as well as the project costing template, examples of funding scenarios and a sample contract.

The applications to this call must be made through our online form.

All applications will be reviewed by an assessment panel convened by the Modern Slavery PEC that will include external independent reviewers.

The deadline for applications is 4pm (UK time) 12 January 2023.

The decision on the award of the funding will be made by February, with the project due to start in March 2023 and finish by December 2023.

Call webinar and FAQ

The call webinar was held on 23 November 2022 to go through the scope of the call and answer questions from potential applicants. The video is available below. The Q&A from the session will be unrecorded, questions and answers will be put into an FAQ document which will be shared here shortly after the webinar.