Business Ethics and Responsible Management

Assessment Case Choice 5: Supply chains and human rights abuses: This doesn’t smell right – warnings to tuna companies.


How much do you know about the can tuna you buy? The information available on the can you buy probably concentrates on the sustainability of the catch. It might tell you if the fish come from a sustainable stock? Or it might tell you the method used to catch it and assure you that there is minimal impact on other marine life (Drag nets for example catch turtles, sharks and so on which are not wanted as part of the catch and so these populations suffer as a ‘by-catch’). So often a company will tell you about the sustainability of the species caught (i.e. are we going to run out of tuna) and whether other species were harmed (usually it is whether the catch is ‘dolphin friendly’ because dolphins have the ‘cute and cuddly’ effect and no one wants to harm a dolphin, right?).

But how much do you know about the people who catch the fish? The fishing industry, especially in South East Asia, has long had a reputation for exploitation in which big companies have been complicit.

A report in June 2019 by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre highlighted some of the issues. Writing about the report in ‘Supply Management’, the magazine for the Chartered Institute for Procurement and Supply (CIPS), it was noted that:

‘The world’s largest tuna companies are failing to support policies with practical action on modern slavery, a report warned.

The report by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) said tuna companies have fallen into a pattern of “policy over practice” when it comes to tackling slavery in their supply chains in the Pacific’ . See link below.

The report outlined that a survey of 35 canned tuna companies operating in the Pacific had a very varied response to workers rights, some had more relevant policies than others; some were clearly making progress, while others seemed to be still in the starting blocks. One interesting finding was that none of the companies disclosed finding any workers who were in a state of modern slavery. That seems good, but given the reports of abuses, how could this be?

Below are some links to the story of the report, and to the report itself.

There is also an older story which adds further context, but be sure to do your own research.

Hart, C. (2019) ‘Slavery policies ‘fig-leaf for abuse’ in tuna supply chains’ In Supply Chain available at last accessed 07/10/19

Hodal , K (2019) ‘Major tuna brands failing to tackle slavery in Pacific supply chains – report’ The Guardian last accessed 07/10/19

Leschin-Hoar, C (2018) ‘was your seafood caught with slave labor? New database helps retialers combat abuse’ NPR Newsite Available at  last accessed 08/10/19

And finally, the report itself

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (2019) Out of Sight: Modern Slavery in Pacific Supply Chains of Canned Tuna. A survey & analysis of company action. Available at last accessed 08/10/19

Your assessment into two parts with part 1 being further split into two. Read the requirements below and attempt all three parts:

Part 1

  1. You are now required to write a brief report to senior managers at the fishing company of your choice. You will probably want to choose one of the companies listed in the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre report. As the report notes, some are further forward than others in looking at slavery in their supply chains so you will want to do a bit of research on the company. You will need to explore and write about a number of factors including – Why should the company be looking at this issue from the perspective of ethics? This ought to be fairly straight forward, if a report is saying companies are not acting on slavery.  How might this issue influence the public image of the company? This would take us back to the work we did on shareholders and stakeholders – what do you think the public view is of what is important to the company? What alternatives ways are there to think about a business’ role in society? That is, what could the company see as its purpose in doing business? Who/what are the stakeholders impacted in the scenario you are reporting on and how are they impacted on? Are there examples of business that act responsibly and ones that do not? You should illustrate this by including research you can find e.g. where is there research that shows good choices benefit companies and bad choices have a negative impact?. Finally you should conclude with some recommendations for what the company should do (here you may want to look at available examples of where companies do try and act well, try looking for the Thai Union statement on Ethics and Labor Code of Conduct.

This part of your assessment should be written as a report, but should be referenced in the normal academic way using Harvard citations and referencing.

  • For this part you should again use the case study – but this time choose TWO ethical theories (using ones we have looked at in class) and demonstrate that you can apply these to the case to show how your chosen theories lead you to a view on the ethics of the case. For example, if you applied the ideas of Rawls and Social Justice to the fishing workforce what would you need to consider and how might the issue look from that perspective? Or, what if you apply Kant’s thinking here?  NOTE – you do NOT have to use ‘opposing’ ideas, we are interested most in how you use theory, if, when you apply two theories they seem to give the same answer that is fine, if they seem to give different outcomes that is fine too. This section is written in a more academic style than the report.

Part 2

Part 2 is NOT related to the case study. This section requires you to discuss what makes an ethical leader and how you would, as an ethical manager, manage your business and/or others to a high ethical standard.

You will need to think about personal ethics, about the conditions that bring about unethical organisations and practices, about organisational values and methods of compliance. This part can be written in a more reflective style, where the first person can be used.


The word limit for this assessment is 3,000 words. This does NOT include any title page or bibliography.

You are allowed 10% of the word count (ie submissions can be up to 3,300 words_, submissions exceeding this will be subject to a penalty.

How the word count is used across the submission is up to you. A suggestion would be

Part 1

  1. Approx. 1200 words
  2. Approx. 1000 words

Part 2

Approx. 800 words

The exact proportions will vary and this is part of your challenge to write informatively and concisely across the required tasks.

How will we support you with your assessment?

  • Assessment briefing Week 1 (lecture)
  • Briefing material and guides in addition to the assessment brief (Please make sure that you read these)
  • Dedicated seminar session on your formative assessment  – see LTAF for the weeks
  • Prompt feedback session on your formative assessment and tutorial session to support the development of your summative assessment.
  • An assignment writing workshop in week 12
  • Tutorial session to support the completion of your summative assessment in Week 13.

How will your work be assessed?

Your work will be assessed by a subject expert who will use the marking grid provided in this assessment brief.  When you access your marked work it is important that you reflect on the feedback so that you can use it to improve future assignments.


You MUST use the Harvard System.  The Harvard system is very easy to use once you become familiar with it.

Assignment submissions

The Business School requires a digital version of all assignment submissions.  These must be submitted via Turnitin on the module’s Moodle site.  They must be submitted as a Word file (not as a pdf) and must not include scanned in text or text boxes.  They must be submitted by 2pm on the given date.  For further general details on coursework preparation refer to the online information via StudentZone

Mitigating circumstances/what to do if you cannot submit a piece of work or attend your presentation

The University Mitigating Circumstances Policy can be found on the University website – Mitigating  Circumstances Policy.

Marking and feedback process

Between you handing in your work and then receiving your feedback and marks within 20 days, there are a number of quality assurance processes that we go through to ensure that students receive marks which reflects their work. A brief summary is provided below.

  • Step One – The module and marking team meet to agree standards, expectations and how feedback will be provided.
  • Step Two – A subject expert will mark your work using the criteria provided in the assessment brief.
  • Step Three – A moderation meeting takes place where all members of the teaching and marking team will review the marking of others to confirm whether they agree with the mark and feedback.
  • Step Four – Work at Levels 5 and 6 then goes to an external examiner who will review a sample of work to confirm that the marking between different staff is consistent and fair.

Step Five – Your mark and feedback is processed by the Office and made available to you.

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