The missing piece: A bottom-up perspective in social sustainability governance

Authors: Greta Steenvoorden*,
Topics: Economic Geography, Social Geography, Human Rights
Keywords: Corporate Responsibility, Labor Regimes, Global Production Networks, Labor Voice, Ready-Made Garment Industry
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Hampton Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines what kind of space there is for labor voice in the context of ready-made garment (RMG) – production that takes place in Global South (here an ideological rather than geographical construct). The RMG-industry has several characteristics that render workers more vulnerable, than in many other industries, such as low skill requirements and gender imbalance. Worker voice refers to mechanisms that aim to capture (factory) workers’ opinions, concerns and grievances related to different aspects of their work, and that use said information to shape the interventions and improvements made by employers and lead companies. The ever more prevalent corporate responsibility (CR) –protocols and various standardization schemes are employed by lead companies to ensure sufficient level of social responsibility within global production networks (GPNs). However, there is ample evidence suggesting that said mechanisms have not resulted in space where the needs and perspectives of factory floor workers can be brought forth. There are various structural problems in CR-mechanisms. The mechanisms are developed in an environment, which is both geographically and culturally removed from the loci of implementation. The result is often a blanket solution that ignores cultural elements of the sourcing countries. Identifying how CR-mechanisms support or alternatively hinder the inclusion of the workers’ voice is an important step towards developing systems that address and ultimately mitigate some of the challenges related to the social impact of business operations. This exploration approaches the topic through CR mechanisms’ aims, governance and ownership as well as literature on their effectiveness.

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