Accepted paper:

Putting the Public back into Private Governance - The Importance of Public Policy for Labour Standards in Apparel and Footwear Global Production Networks


Judith Stroehle (University of Milan)

Paper short abstract:

An effort of incorporating the importance of public governance into the debate on efficacy of private labor governance, examining different levels of public governance and interaction through the use of quantitative and qualitative methods.

Paper long abstract:

The impact and efficacy of private governance on international labour standards remain variables which are extremely difficult to estimate, let alone measure. The debate surrounding relevant impact factors focusses on two main areas: the study of environmental variables regarding social and economic upgrading on the one hand, and the analysis of firm- and value-chain specific characteristics on the other hand. Both discourses aim at framing the success or failure of private governance initiatives in a more meaningful way. I argue in this paper that it is however only the combination of these two areas which can lead to a complete understanding of governance effects towards global labour standards. Using a dataset of over 1000 encoded tracking charts of the Fair Labour Association in the apparel- and footwear industry, this article examines in how far the success of private governance is dependent on the national regulatory system of supplier- and buyer-countries. Institutional variables are used to establish benchmark differences of compliance within national regulatory systems, whereas a deep-dive into some distinctive national cases within the data serves a more thorough qualitative understanding of regulatory systems. With this, the article aims to answer the following questions: Is there evidence indicating that certain national regulatory systems are more or less decisive for the success of private governance, and how do private and public governance interact? Is there a buyer related country-of-origin effect? And finally, in how far does international public regulation interact with the relationship between public and private governance?

panel P61
Global production networks and the politics and policies of development