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
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: Suggested Citation