Labor Standards in International Supply Chains

Labor Standards in International Supply Chains

Aligning Rights and Incentives

Daniel Berliner, Anne Regan Greenleaf, Milli Lake, Margaret Levi and Jennifer Noveck

Labor Standards in International Supply Chains examines developments in working conditions over the past thirty years. The authors analyze the stakeholders and mechanisms that create challenges and opportunities for improving labor rights around the world, in sectors including apparel, footwear and electronics. Extended examples from China, Honduras, Bangladesh and the United States, as well as new quantitative evidence, illustrate the complex dynamics within and among key groups, including brands, suppliers, governments, workers and consumers.

Chapter 2: The world brands create

Daniel Berliner, Anne Regan Greenleaf, Milli Lake, Margaret Levi and Jennifer Noveck

Subjects: politics and public policy, human rights, international politics, social policy and sociology, labour policy


Chapter 2 examines the cases of Levi Strauss, Nike, Apple, and Alta Gracia, each of which offers an example of brands making commitments to improve labor standards in their supply chains. Activist campaigns that tarnish the brand’s reputation among its consumers – or the potential threat of such campaigns – appear to be the trigger in these four cases. Even companies that have a history of corporate social responsibility, such as Levi Strauss, did not always react to labor rights abuses in their supply chains until effectively compelled to admit to them. Knights Apparel, taking stock of the political environment, acted preemptively. It makes a difference to have a corporate culture that values good labor standards, but it matters only when those values can be conjoined with profitable business practices. Establishing a commitment to better labor standards and changing the corporate culture (if it needs to be changed) to include such a commitment is a first step. But it is only a first step. The big issue remaining is how best to ensure that corporate code of conduct is, in fact implemented, throughout the supply chain.

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