Parallel Paths to Enforcement: Private Compliance, Public Regulation, and Labor Standards in the Brazilian Sugar Sector
45 Pages Posted: 26 May 2013
Date Written: May 4, 2013
In recent years, global corporations and national governments have been enacting a growing number of codes of conduct and labor laws to combat dangerous or degrading work conditions in global supply chains. On the receiving end of this activity, local producers must contend with multiple regulations and verification systems, but it is not clear how these systems interact and the results they produce. This paper examines the public and private enforcement of labor standards in the sugarcane, sugar and ethanol sector in Brazil. It finds that private and public agents refuse to communicate with each other, but they act in ways that reinforce each other’s actions. On one side, labor inspectors and prosecutors use their broad legal powers to outlaw some forms of outsourcing. On the other side, private auditors use their extensive access to targeted businesses and the trust they command as insiders to help them engage in a process of workplace transformation that makes it easier for firms to comply. Although these public and private agents refused to cooperate with one another, their parallel enforcement actions blocked the low road and steered targeted firms to a higher road that made compliance with labor standards not only viable, but sometimes even desirable.
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