Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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Just Supply Chains

Factory workers in a production line

Factory workers in a production line.

Led by Joshua Cohen and Richard Locke, the Just Supply Chains project explores the conditions under which a variety of public and private strategies might succeed in promoting a more just global economy.

In a world of global supply chains – with links extending across cultural and political boundaries – corporations, unions, NGOs, national governments, and even international labor, trade and financial organizations are all casting about, searching for new strategic directions and/or novel institutional arrangements. But there is enormous uncertainty about their likely success – in particular, about their success in addressing three basic concerns about employment relations in the global economy: fair compensation, decent and healthy working conditions and rights of association. The concerns about fairness focus on three dimensions: wages and work hours, working conditions that ensure the health and safety of workers, and basic rights, including the right to organize collectively. These issues are considered in connection with supply chains in agriculture, apparel, electronics, and footwear.

Currently, the study seeks evaluate to different strategies for promoting more just labor conditions in global supply chains:

  1. corporate codes of conduct and "private voluntary" efforts to monitor compliance with these codes
  2. reorganizing national-level regulation so that it operates more effectively
  3. collaborative efforts by the WTO, ILO, and other international organizations to bring labor standards together with trade rules in a new form of global rule-making

In addition, the Just Supply Chain project brings together scholars, managers, government officials and leaders of NGOs to discuss strategies and new research on labor and justice in a global economy.

Related Publications

Matthew Amengual, Pathways to Enforcement: Labor Inspectors Leveraging Linkages with Society in Argentina. Industrial and Labor Relations Review. (2013)

The Promise & Limits of Private Power: Promoting Labor Standards in a Global Economy. Richard M. Locke, Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Richard M. Locke, Can Global Brands Create Just Supply Chains? FORUM essay. Boston Review, May–June, 2013.

Richard M. Locke, Ben Rissing and Timea Pal, "Complements or Substitutes? Private Codes, State Regulation and the Enforcement of Labour Standards in Global Supply Chains," British Journal of Industrial Relations, doi: 10.1111/bjir.12003 (November 2012).

Richard M. Locke,  Matthew Amengual and Akshay Mangla, "Virtue out of Necessity?: Compliance, Commitment and the Improvement of Labor Conditions in Global Supply Chains," Politics & Society, Vol. 37, No 3 (September 2009): 319-351

Richard M. Locke, Thomas Kochan, Monica Romis, and Fei Qin, "Beyond corporate codes of conduct: Work organization and labour standards at Nike?s suppliers," International Labour Review, Vol. 146 Issue 1/2, (March–June 2007): 21-37.

Richard M. Locke, Fei Qin and Alberto Brause, "Does Monitoring Improve Labor Standards?: Lessons from Nike," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Volume 61, Issue 1 (October 2007): 3-31.

Related Working Papers

Salo V. Coslovsky and Richard M. Locke, "Parallel Paths to Enforcement: Private Compliance, Public Regulation, and Labor Standards in the Brazilian Sugar Sector". MIT Political Science Department Research Paper, No. 2013-25

Richard M. Locke and Hiram Samel, "Looking in the Wrong Places: Consumer Demand, Supply Chain Governance, and Labor Standards in the Electronics Supply Chain: The Case of Hewlett Packard". MIT Political Science Department Research Paper, No. 2012-18

Jens Hainmueller and Michael J. Hiscox, "The Socially Conscious Consumer? Field Experimental Tests of Consumer Support for Fair Labor Standards". MIT Political Science Department Research Paper,  No. 2012-15

Richard M. Locke, Benjamin Rissing and Timea Pal, "Institutional Interactions and the Divergent Pathways to Improvements in Global Supply Chains." MIT Political Science Department Research Paper.

Richard M. Locke, Gregory Distelhorst, Timea Pal and Hiram Samel, "Capacity Building, Supply Chain Governance, and Labor Stadards in the Global Electronics Industry: The Case of Hewlett Packard". MIT Political Science Department Research Paper.