Ensuring Brand Responsibility: The Power of Institutional Purchasers in the Apparel Industry
31 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2011 Last revised: 31 Aug 2011
Date Written: August 24, 2011
As apparel manufacture moves from the developed to the developing countries, global brands have increased their bargaining power in the garment industry and often fail to uphold the international standard of labor rights. Coalitions of unions, NGOs, and activists have conducted campaigns to educate, influence and organize end consumers to pressure powerful global brands to improve labor conditions in garment production. Most campaigns have limited success. Using in-depth studies of the cases, this paper investigates one campaign that represented a significant victory for labor rights. We find that success depended on: means for acquiring and disseminating credible information about the violation and its corrective and an effective and multi-pronged coalition that includes university actors. Our research reveals that universities are well positioned to overcome various challenges associated with labor rights campaigns; universities have leverage as institutional purchasers, they provide a venue for organized student activism, and they are an important locus for debating and then educating publics about ethical practice.
Keywords: Corporate social responsibility, labor rights
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