The Quest to End Modern Slavery: Metaphors in corporate modern slavery statements


  • Dr Ilse A. Ras
  • Dr Christiana Gregoriou



Modern Slavery Act, corporate modern slavery statements, metaphor, corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis, labour exploitation


This paper focuses on the modern slavery statements of three major UK high street retailers who are known for their relatively pro-active approach to the debate on corporate responsibility for ethical trading. Drawing on our earlier research in relation to metaphors in British newspaper reporting of modern slavery and human trafficking since 2000, we explore the metaphors that recur across the statements these companies have published in 2016, 2017 and 2018. These statements were published in accordance with the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015, which requires all commercial organisations operating in the UK, with a turnover greater than GBP 36 million, to publish an annual statement outlining the work done to assess and address (the risk of) modern slavery in their supply chains. We find that the metaphors used in these statements generally fail to acknowledge the agency of those workers affected by modern slavery and labour exploitation in a broader sense, the potential complicity of the retailers in sustaining an exploitative industry, and the underlying socio-economic factors that leave workers vulnerable to exploitation. We conclude that more needs to be done to account for the causes of modern slavery so that retailers can prevent rather than react to it.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Dr Ilse A. Ras

Dr Ilse A. Ras is a Tutor in Criminology at Leiden University. She completed her PhD in English Language at the University of Leeds, holds an MSc in Criminology from the University of Leicester, and is a co-founder of the Poetics and Linguistics Association Special Interest Group on Crime Writing. Her research and teaching often cross the boundaries between English language and Criminology to examine the use of language to express, maintain and reinforce inequalities.

Dr Christiana Gregoriou

Dr Christiana Gregoriou is an Associate Professor in English Language at the University of Leeds. She researches in (critical) stylistics and crime writing. Most notable are her three monographs (Crime Fiction Migration: Crossing Languages, Cultures, Media, Bloomsbury, 2017; Language, Ideology and Identity in Serial Killer Narratives, Routledge, 2011; Deviance in Contemporary Crime Fiction, Palgrave, 2007). Her 2007 Deviance book was shortlisted for the Anthony Boucher and the Edgar Awards, under ‘Best Critical Work’.




How to Cite

Ras, I., & Gregoriou, C. (2019). The Quest to End Modern Slavery: Metaphors in corporate modern slavery statements. Anti-Trafficking Review, (13), 100–118.