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Self-Regulation and Labour Standards

An Exemplary Study Investigating the Emergence and Strengthening of Self-Regulation Regimes in the Apparel Industry

Carolin Zeller

The question of how to deal with powerful transnational corporations has entered the national and international political agenda. The last years have seen a strong academic interest in business ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR). This study offers some insights into the question under which circumstances collective global self-regulation regimes emerge and gain strength. It investigates the rationales and incentives driving corporate decision-making resulting in collective self-regulation regimes in the apparel industry. The work is based on a theoretical discussion of rational choice approaches and expert interviews. The research suggests that public pressure can convincingly explain the emergence of CSR policies in general and self-regulation regimes in particular. Moreover, the emergence and proliferation of collective self-regulation regimes has been influenced by the role of governmental regulation in the early 1990s and has been stagnating in the last years. This development can be convincingly explained by the changed dynamic of public pressure and by the lower perceived threat of governmental regulation.


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2. Globalisation and global self-regulation


Since the 1990s, the term ‘globalisation’ has dominated the political and economic debates around the world. Despite the fact that states empowered by sovereignty have been and still are the main political actors, there have been some significant changes in the international arena. Enabled by new technologies and low costs of communication and transport, international trade is growing fast. Goods, services, information, and people, pass borders. In the last years, the academic world has seen fierce discussions about the definition, extent and consequences of globalisation.8 Seen from a merely eco- nomic point of view, globalisation is an equivalent to internationalisation and is nothing new.9 International commerce has existed for centuries and has been particularly intense prior to the World War I. Some globalisation sceptics argue that the extent of market integration is not significantly higher than at the end of the nineteenth century.10 But in addition to the economic interdependence, the political world has seen major changes as well. After World War II, new powerful international ac- tors, like globally acting civil society groups (often labelled NGOs), an in- creased number of international organisations, such as the European Union (EU), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and others, as well as globally acting transnational corporations (TNCs) have emerged.11 These 8 See for example the debates in Michie 2003 and Busch and Plümper 1999. 9 Scholte 2001, p. 520. 10 See Garrett for an account of the debate (Garrett 1998). See also Michie 2003 for an overview of...

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