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

Tantawy Moussa, Amir Allam, Mahmoud Elmarzouky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5382-5402
Number of pages21
JournalBusiness Strategy and the Environment
Issue number8
Early online date25 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 The Authors. Business Strategy and The Environment published by ERP Environment and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • Sustainable development goals
  • modern slavery disclosures
  • corporate governance
  • board gender diversity
  • gender socialisation theory
  • critical mass theory


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