Codes in Context: How States, Markets, and Civil Society Shape Adherence to Global Labor Standards

37 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2012 Last revised: 14 Oct 2014

Michael W. Toffel

Harvard Business School

Jodi L. Short

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Melissa Ouellet

Harvard Business School

Date Written: September 8, 2014

Abstract

Transnational business regulation is increasingly implemented through private voluntary programs - like certification regimes and codes of conduct - that diffuse global standards. But little is known about the conditions under which companies adhere to these standards. We conduct one of the first large-scale comparative studies to determine which international, domestic, civil society, and market institutions promote supply chain factories’ adherence to the global labor standards embodied in codes of conduct imposed by multinational buyers. We find that suppliers are more likely to adhere when they are embedded in states that participate actively in the ILO treaty regime and that have stringent domestic labor law and high levels of press freedom. We further demonstrate that suppliers perform better when they serve buyers located in countries where consumers are wealthy and socially conscious. Taken together, these findings suggest the importance of overlapping state, civil society, and market governance regimes to meaningful transnational regulation.

Keywords: Transnational regulation, Labor standards, Consumer politics, Codes of conduct, Compliance

Suggested Citation

Toffel, Michael W. and Short, Jodi L. and Ouellet, Melissa, Codes in Context: How States, Markets, and Civil Society Shape Adherence to Global Labor Standards (September 8, 2014). Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 13-045; UC Hastings Research Paper No. 79. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2178540 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2178540

Michael W. Toffel (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States
617.384.8043 (Phone)

Jodi L. Short

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

Melissa Ouellet

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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