Global Governance of Labour Rights
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Global Governance of Labour Rights

Assessing the Effectiveness of Transnational Public and Private Policy Initiatives

Edited by Axel Marx, Jan Wouters, Glenn Rayp and Laura Beke

This insightful book incorporates perspectives from several disciplines to provide a unique systematic analysis of emerging public and private initiatives in global labour rights governance. The expert contributors explore the complexities of labour rights governance in a global economy characterized by transnational supply chains. They assess how transnational, intergovernmental and private initiatives aim to address the challenges of global labour rights protection before discussing the effectiveness of these initiatives and presenting new empirical findings. The book concludes with a detailed reflection on how to strengthen the global regime of labour rights governance.
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Chapter 11: Compliance opportunities and the effectiveness of private voluntary standard setting – lessons from the global banana industry

Dennis Klink


In an era of ‘governance without government’ (Rosenau and Czempiel 1992), the emergence of ‘private authority’ (Hall and Biersteker 2002) has become a pivotal study object (see also Chapter 10, this volume). The role of multinational companies (MNCs) and their attempts to self-regulate through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) instruments such as voluntary private standard setting represents an important element within that field (Bartley 2007; Locke 2013; Vogel 2008). Considering this background, the chapter focuses on MNCs in the global banana industry, a sector with a ‘dark history’ regarding human and labor rights violations (Striffler and Moberg 2003). As a response to stakeholder pressure, most banana MNCs have adopted voluntary certification programs regarding working conditions and environmental practices (Liu 2008). However, civil society organizations (Feral and Fischer 2006; Pier 2002) as well as academics (e.g. Harari 2009; Robinson 2010a) have skeptically evaluated these initiatives and criticize the lack of effectiveness. This chapter argues that private standard setting in the banana industry is contested because empirically we can witness significant differences between the level of standard adoption and that of standard implementation. In other words, all banana MNCs have endorsed and committed themselves to various voluntary social and environmental certification systems at the central company level. Moreover, those systems represent key elements of their CSR policies. Nonetheless, the relatively ambitious adoption agenda is contrasted by rather selective standard implementation figures across different supply-chain countries.

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