The Effectiveness of Self-Regulation: Corporate Codes of Conduct and Child Labour

European Management Journal, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 260-271

Posted: 22 Jul 2003

See all articles by Ans Kolk

Ans Kolk

University of Amsterdam Business School

Rob van Tulder

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Rotterdam School of Management (RSM)

Abstract

The effectiveness of self-regulation to promote corporate social responsibility, with codes of conduct as most common means, continues to be the subject of widespread interest. This article explores the effectiveness of corporate codes of conduct, focusing on the issue of child labour. This issue is all the more pronounced, because a strict approach, involving firing child workers or terminating relationships with suppliers that employ them, does not change underlying causes. Effectiveness is explored by a close examination of the nature of child labour codes of six pioneering international garment companies, and by a survey among a focus group of opinion leaders in companies and stakeholders, who were asked for their views on the different dilemmas surrounding codes and child labour. Overall, our research shows that corporate codes are considered to be important, though not the only instruments for addressing child labour. Possible negative side-effects and limitations of codes are not seen as crucial factors that harm their effectiveness. Codes must be specific, strictly implemented and monitored, and combined with alternative arrangements for under-age child workers. The importance of a supply-chain approach and attention for the host-country context is recognized. But this also raises many difficult dilemmas concerning the boundaries of corporate social responsibility, which the article examines in more detail.

Keywords: Corporate social responsibility, child labour, codes of conduct, multinationals, self-regulation

JEL Classification: F23, M14, L2, G38, H79, J50, L67

Suggested Citation

Kolk, Ans and van Tulder, Rob J.M., The Effectiveness of Self-Regulation: Corporate Codes of Conduct and Child Labour. European Management Journal, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 260-271. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=319361

Ans Kolk (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam Business School ( email )

Plantage Muidergracht 12
Amsterdam, 1018 TV
Netherlands
+31 20 525 4289 (Phone)
+31 20 525 5281 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.anskolk.eu

Rob J.M. Van Tulder

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
Room T08-21
3000 DR Rotterdam, 3000 DR
Netherlands

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