Increased attention to sweatshops, child labour, and the suppression of labour rights has led to a range of voluntary initiatives that set, monitor, and certify labour standards in global supply chains.
These include factory certification efforts like Social Accountability International, monitoring programs like the Ethical Trading Initiative and Fair Labour Association, and numerous corporate codes of conduct and supplier standards. Whereas supporters initially claimed that such initiatives would effectively 'bypass the state' and transform labour conditions in global supply chains, existing evidence suggests that their impacts are fragmentary, limited in scope, and conditional on domestic political settings. This presentation will discuss the various routes by which certification and codes of conduct might in theory support an upgrading of labour conditions and the barriers that have blunted many of these standards in practice. In particular, an examination of the garment and footwear sectors in Indonesia provides an opportunity to consider why factory certification has barely taken hold in a comparatively conducive political setting (where freedom of association is legally possible) and the ways in labour conditions are shaped by the interplay of governmental and private standards. This seminar was delivered by Professor Tim Bartley, Indiana University.