The Garment Supply Chain Governance Project, which ended in June 2019, has recently published its final stakeholder report. After three years of collecting data from 79 lead firms from four countries, 152 factory managers in Bangladesh, 1.500 Bangladeshi garment workers and multiple stakeholders, we see a relatively coherent picture more than six years after the fatal Rana Plaza factory collapse: “Rana Plaza and the resulting public attention to building safety and worker standards in global garment supply chains has led to an enhanced climate for compliance, manifested in a range of new governance  models – most importantly the Accord and Alliance initiatives – and more longer-term, stable buyer-supplier relationships that have contributed to improved worker outcomes in some respects. These developments are direct responses to an unprecedented human disaster in the global garment industry which has triggered a positive collective response but not a systemic change towards more sustainable garment production. In fact, our results indicate the fragility of these gains, shedding light on the continued systemic challenges to sustainable labour standards faced by lead firms and suppliers alike.”

These results echo previous findings, not least those reported on this blog, regarding the continued challenge of raising the wages of garment workers and the need for further stakeholder pressure on garment brands and policy makers. In addition, our results provide nuanced insights regarding the current state of buyer-supplier relations and working conditions. For instance, we observe a form of “asymmetrical cooperation” between buyers and suppliers that is marked by increased power asymmetries between lead firms and suppliers on the one hand, but longer-term relations, mutual understanding, trust and continuity of orders on the other. The main problem in these relationships is the continued pressure on production prices, which undermines suppliers’ capacities for improving labor standards. Rather than sweatshops, we argue that many of the larger garment factories in Bangladesh constitute “hardship workplaces”, maked by improvements in workers’ outcome standards
(mainly better health and safety conditions, relative job security and improved social benefits) and process rights (mainly representation in worker participation committees), but continued problems regarding wages, working hours, abuse and management rejection of unions and collective bargaining.

Many of these developments can be tied to the Accord and Alliance initiatives whose presence has clearly created a stricter “climate for compliance” that ensures that basic standards are met. Yet, these initiatives have also further consolidated lead firms’ power and has mixed impacts at best for local labor actors. Overall, we fear that with the fading out or transitioning of these initiatives and a continued lack of stricter regulation of labor standards and human rights in global supply chains – on national and transnational levels – the improvements garment workers gained might be instable. Thus, we conclude: “As Rana Plaza starkly revealed, the safety and wellbeing of millions of workers and their families depend on the development of effective governance
solutions on multiple levels. Our research indicates that despite the progress made in recent years, further efforts will be necessary to help the millions of workers who depend on the garment industry for their livelihoods.”

Together with Rick Delbridge (Cardiff University, Wales), Markus Helfen (University of Innsbruck, Austria), Andi Pekarek (Melbourne University, Australia) and Charlene Zietsma (Pennsylvania State University, USA), I am co-organizing the upcoming Organization Studies Summer Workshop on the topic “Organizing Sustainably: Actors, Institutions, and Practices”.

Our main aim is to go beyond the common mantra of contemporary management scholars and practitioners that there is a ‘business case’ for sustainability towards examining what alternative forms of organizing can contribute to the sustainable usage of environmental, social, and economic resources in ways that avoid their degradation and exhaustion. While such models already do exist, they often do not spread or scale up, remaining exploitative business practices untouched on a larger scale.

The submission system is now open, and the full call can be found here: https://osofficer.wixsite.com/osworkshop?fbclid=IwAR3bV80vSvxpbVMF-IWiOiPYmR5Vv022ganthYq2xj6MBACe6R_Uxf2xvdE

We will also use this workshop to reflect about sustainable forms of organizing in our own scholarly community. As a temporary team of organizers meeting a long-standing routine of highly productive summer workshops, we are ourselves directly faced with the challenge of being unable to meet the “triple bottom line” of environmental sustainability (these are typically bad, because academics fly to conferences), social and economic impacts on the local community and employees (these in our case are good, because the venue has strong sustainability policies), and economic/academic “performance” (the summer workshops are usually seen as a highly productive meeting format). We will use the direct experience of this contradiction to reflect about our own scholarly practices during our workshop to hopefully develop some ideas for more sustainable forms of scholarship.

Today, concerns about academics’ contribution to the future of our planet are growing. While climate scientists have long recognized that their scholarly lifestyle is part of the  problem and have developed various kinds of solutions, management scholars are just beginning to more extensively reflect not just about their research agendas, but about their own behaviour as scholars. Management scholars’ environmental impact is not the only issue at stake. Rather, there are problems with a loss of meaningfulness in research work driven forward by rankings, not content, and with a rise of scientific misconduct. Arguably, these issues are related to the ways in which the scholarly community is organized.

The research network “Grand Challenges and New Forms of Organizing”, funded by the German Research Foundation, has taken it as its mission to unpack the reciprocal relationship between societal grand challenges and new forms of organizing. In the spirit of this research agenda, the network has also started to reflect about the challenge of making scholarship itself more sustainable again. During one of its workshops held in March 2019, the network formed working groups around four areas of sustainable scholarship that can be seen as highly interrelated and complementary, thus creating difficulties for change:

  1. How can we reduce our flying in the light of demands placed on visibility in international research communities?
  2. How can we make academic careers more sustainable and meaningful?
  3. Is the strong focus on theoretical novelty by our leading journals itself an unsustainable practice?
  4. What are alternatives to supporting the unsustainable business model of proprietary publishing?

Environmental impact of scholars Read the rest of this entry »

At a workshop on “Intellectual Property Ordering Beyond Borders” hosted by the newly founded Weizenbaum Institute in Berlin I was invited to give a talk on issues of transnationality and territoriality in the realm of private regulation via standards. This invitation provided me with the opportunity to bind together insights from several previous papers I had co-authored on the case of Creative Commons. Please find the slides of my talk below.

 

(leonhard)

Cover “Music Practices Across Borders”

Connecting migration studies and the theory of valuation, the collection edited by Glaucia Peres da Silva and Konstantin Hondros (both from University of Duisburg-Essen) offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of transnational music practices. Conceiving music as a practice not confined to audibility, the interdisciplinary contributions reveal how music emerges in concrete situations through people, objects, techniques, meanings, and emotions in different parts of the world and during different historic periods. Values are thereby created and shared, and creative processes are evaluated in terms of diversity, space and exchange.

The book presents cases of contemporary, popular and traditional music, festivals and trade fairs, albums and band projects, shedding light on the tensions between the transfer, reconstruction and creation of music in different contexts. Since the editors were able to publish the anthology open access – thanks to the university library of the University Duisburg-Essen – the book “Music practices across borders” as a full-text PDF.

To all of you who do research on organizational openness: please send us your paper for a Special Issue in Organization Studies on “Open Organizing in an Open Society? Conditions, Consequences and Contradictions of Openness as an Organizing Principle” (PDF) by Nov 30, 2019, and maybe also (but not compulsory) a short paper to the EGOS sub-theme (by Jan 14, 2019). From the call for papers:

The central objective of the special issue is to explore how societal demands for various dimensions of openness are realized in contemporary organizing. In so doing this special issue seeks to lay foundations for theorizing openness as a general organizing principle. Such theorization may not only have profound implications for conventional theories of organizations, but also enable us to understand and examine potentially paradoxical repercussions of applying openness as an organizing principle for both organizations and society at large. We welcome empirical and conceptual papers that cut across existing literatures, thereby extending previous literatures in three main ways: 1) Papers that systematically compare conditions of openness across specific domains or across open organizational forms. In particular, papers might explore demands for organizational openness at the societal level and compare them across literatures on organizational openness. 2) Papers that examine the consequences of openness as an organizing principle in specific domains on the various notions of organizational openness (fluidity, transparency, etc.) or on the process of open organizing. 3) Papers that assess contradictory trends and paradoxes associated with openness across literatures. In particular, papers could explore how the trend towards more organizational openness and/or openness in specific domains give rise to new closures and exclusionary dynamics. We also invite papers that address how organizational openness is connected or even contributes to the decline of certain democratic principles in contemporary societies. In short, papers could examine how openness as an organizing principle opposes or contributes to new types of closure and exclusion.

Please find more information and links over at the OS ConJunction blog.

(leonhard)

March 12-15, 2019, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Creativity is one of the key concepts, yet among the most slippery ones of present-day Western societies. Today, the call for creativity spans far beyond typically “creative” fields and industries towards becoming a universal social norm. Creative processes, however, are fundamentally surrounded by uncertainty. It is difficult to know ex-ante what will become a creative idea and, due to its destructive force, it is also highly contested. This inherent uncertainty associated with creativity thus spills over to other social spheres, too.
The DFG-funded Research Unit “Organized Creativity” is studying creative processes in music and pharmaceuticals – as representatives for creativity in the arts and in the sciences. The goal of the unit is to understand in greater depth those practices of inducing and coping with uncertainty which are employed by various actors involved in creative processes.

Target Group
The Spring School provides space for exchange between advanced doctoral students, early postdocs and several senior scholars that do research on creativity either in the context of innovation research or in the fields of business and management studies, economic geography, psychology or sociology. Combining lectures from renowned scholars (Prof. Dr. Dr. Karin Knorr Cetina, Prof. David Stark, Ph.D., Prof. Dr. Gernot Grabher, Prof. Dr. Elke Schüßler, Prof. Dr. Jörg Sydow) with the presentation, discussion and development of individual papers, this call invites advanced doctoral students and early postdocs from all disciplines concerned with creativity and uncertainty to join our discussion in Berlin. The working language will be English. Read the rest of this entry »

Logo of the 35th EGOS Colloquium in Edinburgh, UK

The 35th EGOS Colloquium will take place from July 4–6, 2019 in Edinburgh, UK, and for the third time after 2015 in Athens and 2017 in Copenhagen Georg von Krogh (ETH Zürich), Richard Whittington (Oxford University) and I will convene a sub-theme on organizational openness. Please find the Call for Short Papers (about 3.000 words) of sub-theme 55 on “Open Organizing for an Open Society? Connecting Research on Organizational Openness” below, submission deadline is January 14, 2019:

Discussions around open organizing date back to the 1950s, when organizations were conceptualized as open systems interdependent with their environments (e.g. Boulding, 1956). However, recent developments have seen openness recast as an organizing principle in a wide range of domains. Indeed, Tkacz (2012, p. 400) describes contemporary advanced societies as undergoing a “second coming of openness”. Thus we see the apparent rise of phenomena such as open innovation (Chesbrough, 2006), open strategy (Hautz et al., 2017), open software development (von Hippel & von Krogh, 2006), open government (Janssen et al., 2012), open science (Nosek et al., 2015), and open education (Seely et al., 2008).

While there is growing reference to notions of openness across domains, these are largely disconnected from each other, show few signs of convergence and lack theoretical reference between domains. This fragmentation is even more marked when considering related notions such as organizational fluidity (Dobusch & Schoenborn, 2015), liquidity (Kociatkiewicz & Kostera, 2014), boundlessness (Ashkenas et al., 2002) and partiality (Ahrne & Brunsson, 2011). Alongside these notions, advanced societies appear also to be seeing the emergence of more open organizational forms such as crowds (Felin et al., 2014), communities (Faraj et al., 2016), ecosystems (Baldwin, 2012) or meta-organizations (Gulati et al., 2012). A central objective of the proposed sub-theme will be to bring together discussions of various forms of open organizing in order to explore possible commonalities and significant distinctions, and to develop means for more connected theorizing across domains and dimensions. Read the rest of this entry »

Digitalization reduces technological and financial barriers to scientific publishing. Science can thus become faster, more inclusive and more plural. At the same time, the growing acceptance of specific forms of Open Access has also led to the rise of author-pays business models based on Article Processing Charges (APCs). The increasing publication pressure in the scientific system in combination with APCs provides incentives for creating “predatory” journals that only supposedly or very superficially conduct peer review in order to maximize their profits from such APCs. These manuscripts are at best inadequate and at worst deliberately tendentious and misleading.

How to stop predatory publishers? (Credit: SarahRichterArt, CC0)

Recently, an investigative report by the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and public broadcasters WDR and NDR has revealed that even researchers from reputable academic institutions publish in or represent publishers of dubious quality. In their attempt to reveal “Fake Science” (using the English term in their German reportings), journalists easily accomplished the publication of a non-sensical article in an allegedly peer reviewed journal charging APCs. What they also show is how these unscientific practices not just harm the reputation of legitimate open access journals but are also a potential source – and allegedly scientific proof – for fake news more generally.

This blogpost discusses how reputable (Open Access) journals can defend their credibility against somewhat or even completely dubious Open Access journals. In our opinion, the most sustainable response, which however would only be possible in the mid to long-term, would be to abandon author-pays business models altogether and switch to publication infrastructures financed by universities and institutions (for an example of such an approach, check out the Open Library of Humanities). In the short-term, however, certain open-peer review practices might also be helpful to address the problem of predatory open access journals. Read the rest of this entry »

IMG_5189_1

On the 24th of April 2018, many people around the world commemorated the over 1000 lives lost and the 1800 people injured during the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Savar, Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Global Garment Supply Chain Governance Project, together with King’s College London, took this date as an opportunity to bring together the community of international scholars investigating the consequences of this disaster for the governance of labor standards in the global garment industry. Given the high and immediate policy relevance of this topic, the conference was not just purely academic: several representatives from lead firms, supplier factories, policy makers and civil society actively participated in debating and interpreting the research results, and also constituted the strong opening panel. So what are the news for global governance?

A focal point of the debate was the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a five-year multi-stakeholder, transnational collective agreement co-signed by over 200 brands and the UNI and IndustriaALL global unions that not only commits brands to pay into a centrally organized safety inspection regime and to ensure continuity of orders for a limited period, but also demands the introduction of worker participation into safety committees in garment factories and provides for legally binding arbitration mechanisms if complaints are unresolved. While Mark Anner, Jennifer Bair and Jeremy Blasi argue that the Accord is not unprecedented, pointing to the “jobbers agreements” drafted between workers, contractors, and lead firms in the US apparel supply chain to ensure fair prices and stable orders in the earlier 20th century, most would agree that the Accord’s governance model is unique in a global supply chain context. Thus, it is often hailed as a solution to the industry’s ongoing and pressing problems regarding labour standards. The Accord departs most from previous initiatives in that it is a collective approach for addressing the “race to the bottom” dynamic of competing on the lowest possible labour standards characterizing the garmen industry since decade – an issue which lead firms only now begin to see as a collective action problem. In analyzing the history of the Accord, Juliane Reinecke and Jimmy Donaghey  point out, however, that the Accord was not crafted as a reaction to the Rana Plaza disaster. In fact, it existed previously as a memorandum of understanding on building and worker safety by two lead firms following earlier factory accidents – but other lead firms were not interested in signing it before the fatal factory collapse occurred. Does the Accord stand up to these hopes?

As argued by Miriam Neele, on the panel as Head of Signatory Engagement of the Accord, the Accord program has now covered approximately over 2 million workers in the Bangladesh garment industry and has ensured the remediation of about 85% of the factories covered by the Accord. Data on over 1000 garment workers collected by Naila Kabeer, London School of Economics, likewise indicates that there has been positive change on those issues that Western lead firms can influence, such as building safety and working time, at least in those factories covered by the Accord and by the US-driven Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. Both Frank Hoffer (on the panel as representative of the new Action Collaboration Transformation initiative) and Giesela Burckhardt from the German NGO Femnet, however, stress that wages still need to go up – an issue that is simply not covered by the Accord. Additionally, there is some scepticism as to the actual scalability of the Accord model to other issues and other countries. The renewal of the Accord in Bangladesh has resulted in a rather slow process of getting brands to sign up to the agreement again, and the initiative has faced intense critique from various Bangladeshi stakeholders who think that the Accord has lost its purpose in Bangladesh. In a study conducted by Steve Frenkel (UNSW) and Chris Wright (University of Sydney) and myself shortly after the Rana Plaza disaster we found that intense stakeholder pressure was a main driver behind firms’ willingness to sign the Accord. In the absence of such immediate pressure, it seems that the majority of firms is only reluctantly willing to engage in stricter forms of labour standards regulation, such as those embraced by the Accord.

At least four additional problems must be noted. First, as argued by Kabeer, certain worker-related issues cannot be influenced by Western brands. Most importantly, these are the (mis-)behaviour of supervisors and the still very low level of unionization and worker representation in Bangladesh. Here local stakeholders are called upon to bring forward changes. Second, as repeatedly noted by Dorothee Baumann-Pauly and her colleagues from the NYU Stern school of business, the current safety schemes has at best created “islands of compliance” in which some of the best, most well-financed factories are getting better, while the smaller, already struggling factories remain off the radar – and have notoriously poor standards. Third, the Accord remains an auditing tool – and audits can easily turn into mere reputational devices for lead firms rather than creating actual accountability and liability for brands and their auditors, as Carolijn Terwind, lawyer at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), highlighted on our panel. Fourth, evidence from a survey on 150 factory managers in Bangladesh conduced by Shahidur Rahman (BRAC University) and Kazi Mahmudur Rahman (ULAB) suggests that lead firms rarely support factory’s remediation efforts financially. Thus, while suppliers value continuity of orders, they feel heavily squeezed between ongoing price pressure exerted by lead firms and increased demands regarding infrastructure and working conditions.

An important structural condition must be noted though, which in my view is a core boundary condition for seeing continued improvements in labour standards in Bangladeshi garment factories: unless digitalization is able to replace manual labour in this industry, large volumes of garment production will remain in Bangladesh because, as China continues to reduce its capacities, no other country is to date able to absorb the high demand for garment production. In this sense, the race to the bottom is currently on hold – an unforeseen opportunity for stakeholders in the West as well as in Bangladesh to continue pressing for stricter regulations and better labour standards in this industry.

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
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