Hidden Costs

Hidden Costs
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A project on the dark side of supply chains

The world is increasingly interconnected through global supply chains. Trillions of dollars a year of merchandise travel across oceans and continents linking low cost manufacturers from developing countries to large discount-driven consumer markets. While the benefits of these supply chains are clear – jobs, goods and commerce – the costs are largely hidden from the public.

25 million people are victims of forced labour around the world. Corruption costs countries, businesses and consumers trillions of dollars. The environmental and climate effects of global trade are growing. Hidden Costs brings together journalists and scholars to research and report on the complexities of global trade.

Incidents such as slave labour and harmful materials in consumer products have drawn international attention and given rise to critical questions about where our products come from and how they are made. Calls for supply chain accountability are increasing, including the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act (slavery and human trafficking) and the U.S. Lacey Act amendments to address illegal timber in trade.

Hidden Costs aims to reveal the consequences of global supply chains. Our investigative team includes seasoned award-winning journalists, who are partnering with leading scholars and students to embark on ambitious reporting projects. Our goal is to produce three original documentaries on the three stages of supply chains – production, transport, and retail.

These documentaries will reveal how the products we make, move and sell through global supply chains affect communities, industry and the environment. The project will trace deep into the shadows of the fast-moving global economy to establish a new baseline of understanding on the connections of people, places and products.

The project will conclude with a travelling exhibition. The exhibition will consist of refurbished shipping containers that double as the exhibition space. Featured inside the containers will be research and digital outputs from the project presented as interactive works of art. To display this exhibit we will load the shipping containers onto trucks and take them to communities across North America that are critical junctures in global supply chains – these include major distribution hubs and consumer communities.

Hidden Costs includes partnerships with the National Film Board of Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, NBC News, The New York Times, the Associated Press, Frontline, Smithsonian Channel, Reveal from the Centre fro Investigative Reporting, Google News Lab and more.

We also have partnerships with universities from around the world. This project was made possible with funding and support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.