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 the “global South” to large discount-driven consumer markets in the “North.” While the economic benefits are measured and appreciated, the environmental and social costs are distanced, unaccounted for, and growing.

Through a worldwide partnership led by the UBC Graduate School of Journalism in collaboration with other journalism schools, experts, and major broadcasters, the goal of this project is to bring the hidden costs of global supply chains from the shadows to the mainstream spotlight — contributing new knowledge about who wins and who loses and why within the global political economy, and highlighting critical pathways for policy intervention.

Over the five years of the project, investigative teams of seasoned award-winning journalists (with global reporting students) will produce three innovative, original, high-impact documentaries/multimedia projects. These will be distributed through social media campaigns and through partnerships with major media organizations to large audiences, as well as communicated through a creative, interactive “traveling shipping container” roadshow exhibit (developed in partnership with NFB Interactive).

The topics have been carefully selected to cut into key nodes of the supply chain: from production and manufacturing (illegal logging), to shipping (illegal cargo), through to final consumption (illegal e-retail labour practices). Each documentary provides a distinct, original contribution, but is also connected thematically.

The “traveling shipping container” exhibit will be packed with interactive multimedia to form an original, informative road show to be conducted in year 5 (and beyond). It will travel across North America by truck, train, and ship, to cities and towns that have been impacted by high-profile supply chain players such as Walmart, Fedex, rail hubs and ports. This exhibit will reach academic and non-academic audiences, as well as attract press coverage on the issues.