Corporate Social Responsibility and Global Labor Standards: Firms and Activists in the Making of Private Regulation, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Corporate Social Responsibility and Global Labor Standards

Firms and Activists in the Making of Private Regulation, 1st Edition

By Luc Fransen


236 pages | 23 B/W Illus.

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How effective are multinational companies at improving working conditions in their supply chains? This book focuses on a crucial dynamic in private efforts at regulating labor standards in international production chains. It addresses questions regarding the quality of rules (Are existing efforts to privately regulate labor standards credible?) as well as business demand for private regulation (To what extent are different types of regulation adopted by companies?). This volume seeks to understand the underlying issue of whether private regulation can be both stringent and popular with firms.

The study analyzes the nature and origins of, the business demand for and the competition between all relevant private regulatory organizations focusing on clothing production. The argument of the book focuses on the interaction between activists and firms, in consensual (developing and governing private regulatory organizations) and in contentious forms (activists exerting pressure on firms). The book describes and explains an emerging divide in the effort to regulate working conditions in clothing production between a larger cluster of less stringent and a smaller cluster of more stringent private regulatory organizations and their supporters.

The analysis is based on original data, adopting both comparative case study and inferential statistical methods to explain developments in apparel, retail and sportswear sectors.


‘Private regulation is becoming a key area of research. First contributions focused on the emergence of these new forms of private governance and were mostly theoretical. Luc Fransen’s book offers an interesting systematic and engaging empirical investigation into the development of the main private initiatives which aim to implement labor standards on a global scale. The book offers some surprising results and will be of great interest to the interdisciplinary group of scholars and policy analysts of private regulation.’ - Axel Marx, Antwerp Business School, Belgium

‘In this rich treatment of the dynamic emergence of private labour regulations, Fransen has advanced and contributed to our understanding of the negotiations involved in crafting codes, the role of activist pressure in determining what kinds of programs firms are willing to support, and how private regulatory fields evolve through competition and collaboration. For scholars and practitioners working on private regulation, this is a must read.’ – Graeme Auld, Carleton University, Canada

‘Fransen presents a very original account of how various private regulatory initiatives supporting labor standards have developed, and what contributes to their differing patterns of adoption, stringency, and effectiveness. This book is a must read for students seeking to understand CSR on the ground and in relation to the politics of firms, NGOs, trade unions and workers.’Gregory Jackson, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Table of Contents

Part I: Understanding Private Labor Regulation 1. Private Labor Regulation: Why and What Is It Good For? 2. Understanding Developments in Private Labor Regulation: A Research Framework Part II: Organizing Private Labor Regulation 3. Labor Standards, Implementation and Degrees of Control: A Power Based Analysis of Private Regulatory Approaches 4. How to Dress Up a Code: The Politics of Developing Private Regulatory Organizations Part III: Business Demand and Competition 5. Choosing a Code: Understanding Business Support for Private Labor Regulation 6. Competing Codes: Understanding the Dynamics of Private Regulatory Competition Part IV: The Future of Private Labor Regulation 7. Conclusions and Prospects Glossary of Organizations Appendix I: The Eight Private Regulatory Organizations Appendix II: Methodology Notes Bibliography

About the Author

Luc Fransen is Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute. His main research interests concern the global governance of social and environmental standards. His research has been published in Governance, Review of International Political Economy, Business & Society, European Journal of Industrial Relations and Organization.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in International Business and the World Economy

As ever-increasing proportion of the world's business takes place across national borders, the need to understand the motive forces behind international business becomes greater. Transnationals are now, in many cases, as important as national governments in shaping trade flows and economic trends. As this series demonstrates, international business is not just the preserve of the largest companies, but impacts on all aspects of business and economic activity. This series is essential reading for policy makers as well as researchers in international business and applied international economics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Business Ethics
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Production & Operations Management