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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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3. Theoretical considerations

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This chapter presents the theoretical background. The research question will be specified; the theoretical background and the main assumptions, variables, ac- tors, and their preferences will be presented and described. Moreover, the theo- retical considerations below investigate the question of how the two main varia- bles external public pressure and the perceived threat of governmental regulation can explain the emergence and further strengthening of self-regulation regimes in the apparel industry. The theoretical considerations developed here are the basis for the following empirical investigation. 3.1 Research question This dissertation investigates two main research questions. First, under which circumstances do global collective self-regulation regimes in the apparel indus- try emerge. For this purpose it will examine what the reasons for corporations’ decision to develop and implement CSR tools are. Second, how and why existing self-regulation regimes in the apparel indus- try strengthen. A collective self-regulation regime will be considered to have gained in strength if the rules of the regimes are adapted and new standards are introduced or if old standards become more specific or stricter. The question of ethical foundations and justifications for self-regulation and corporate standards is very interesting and still offers opportunities for further research. However, these questions will not be discussed. Instead of asking why self-regulation should emerge, this paper rather poses the question under which circumstances corporations are willing to restrict their economic freedom. Thus, this paper is not normative in the sense that it develops any criteria for what standard or form of self-regulation is desirable....

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