Towards Improving Factory Working Conditions in Developing Countries: An Empirical Analysis of Bangladesh Ready-Made Garment Factories

Manufacturing & Service Operations Management (Forthcoming)

George Mason University School of Business Research Paper No. 18-8

31 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2018

See all articles by Xiaojin Liu

Xiaojin Liu

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Anant Mishra

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management

Susan Goldstein

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management

Kingshuk Kanti Sinha

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Operations and Management Science

Date Written: August 10, 2017

Abstract

With supply chains now extending into developing countries, time and again, working conditions in supplier factories have been found to be unsafe. In this study, we focus on factories in the Bangladesh ready-made garment (RMG) industry that supply North American and European retailers. These retailers have adopted an innovative approach towards improving the working conditions of supplier factories by forming consortiums. The consortium of North American retailers is the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (Alliance). The consortium of European retailers is the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (Accord). The central question addressed in this study is: How do working conditions in a supplier factory impact the supplier’s trustworthiness from a retailer’s perspective? We characterize supplier factory working conditions in terms of three types of risks, namely, structural risk, fire risk, and electrical risk. Next, we examine the implications of each type of risk for supplier trustworthiness measured as the number of retailers contracting with the supplier factory. The empirical analysis is conducted using archival data on safety inspections from Alliance and Accord. The results support the contention that retailers are sensitive to working condition risks in a supplier factory, i.e., as working condition risks in a supplier factory increase, the supplier’s trustworthiness decreases. However, these associations vary with the type of the risk. Specifically, fire and electrical risks are associated with decreased supplier trustworthiness, while structural risk has a marginal effect. Further, the negative associations between working condition risks and supplier trustworthiness are moderated by the size of the supplier factory such that the negative associations are significantly attenuated for larger-sized supplier factories compared to the smaller-sized factories. The above findings, taken together, provide nuanced insights into the marketplace implications of working condition risks in supplier factories, and highlight the sensitivity of the retailer-supplier relationship to such risks. These findings also provide actionable guidance on how to manage working condition risks.

Keywords: working conditions, socially responsible operations, emerging economies, global supply chains, empirical research

Suggested Citation

Liu, Xiaojin and Mishra, Anant and Goldstein, Susan and Sinha, Kingshuk Kanti, Towards Improving Factory Working Conditions in Developing Countries: An Empirical Analysis of Bangladesh Ready-Made Garment Factories (August 10, 2017). Manufacturing & Service Operations Management (Forthcoming), George Mason University School of Business Research Paper No. 18-8, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3135630

Xiaojin Liu

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

Anant Mishra (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management ( email )

19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Susan Goldstein

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management ( email )

19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Kingshuk Kanti Sinha

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Operations and Management Science ( email )

Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

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