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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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4. Empirical investigation

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The first three chapters of this dissertation offered a general introduction to the problem of self-regulation in the apparel industry and some theoretical consider- ations on the explanatory power of the two independent variables. The next chapters are based on empirical data. This material will help applying the theo- retical propositions to the apparel industry and provide the basis for a final eval- uation of global self-regulation regimes in the apparel sector. 4.1 Method The empirical part of this dissertation is mainly based on interviews conducted with individuals in international apparel corporations, consulting firms, NGOs, governmental agencies, international organisations, and TNC self-regulation ini- tiatives. Fifteen interviews were conducted between August 2007 and August 2008. Some of them were face-to-face interviews; others were conducted over the telephone. Interviews lasted between 40 and 120 minutes. With the excep- tion of four cases, I was able to speak with senior level staff. The interview questions were developed in advance, though I chose not to follow a strict inter- view script. Instead, I employed a semi-structured and sometimes even conver- sational approach. The questions of the interviews were adapted to the experi- ence of the interviewee as well as the type of organisation. In order to cross- check individual accounts, several questions were posed to all interviewees. In addition to the material collected in interviews, several other documents were used. One NGO and two TNCs preferred sending documents instead of participating in an interview. For this study, more than 50 contact requests were issued....

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