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 4: The international framework for labor standards

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 4 explores the role of international organizations in raising labor standards. As members of the worker and ally cluster, international organizations use their power to try to align government and business interests with those of global supply chain workers. Unfortunately, evidence suggests that these initiatives generally fail to provide the large and sustained improvements they appear to promise. Where they have had some success is establishing the norms to which all advocates of better labor rights appeal. This chapter reviews the existing international framework governing labor rights. We identify three mechanisms through which international institutions and global governance initiatives have shaped, or sought to shape, the behavior of governments and business vis-à-vis workers.

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