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

The first topic probably needs little explanation in terms of the grand challenge at hand: flying habits as a major contributor to carbon emissions and thus the climate crisis. Science is a collective endeavour and face-to-face exchanges with peers and colleagues are important for us to learn, share ideas, develop new research projects and form social ties. The academic conference cycle helps to structure the otherwise largely unstructured research work by providing fixed deadlines. Yet, the mobility requirements placed on scholars by a hyperactive academic system that is highly “projectified” and values international connectivity, frequent exchanges and visibility arguably stand in no relationship to intellectual development. As it stands, the affordances provided by digital technology are underutilized. Of course, no one is suggesting that we should stop meeting and interacting, but rather that we should think about the modes of travel we use and the quantity of events we fly to each year. Various initiatives already exist that raise these questions. The “Flying Less” initiative founded in 2015, for instance, demands that universities work towards reducing flying by staff and students. This, of course, stands in direct contrast to targets set by governments around the world – and supported by accreditation organizations – that universities increase the international exchange of their staff and students. The group also pledges that we, as academics, “work with university-based members to meet key professional objectives in ways that do not require flying and that are sustainable”.

The workshop group has discussed some concrete measures that could be taken in this regard. These should be read more as a brainstormed collection of ideas and not as fully thought out policy proposals, since each immediately raises follow-up questions and could easily be criticized as a kind of “sustainability police”, a problem that we also discussed. As research has shown, concerns about grand social challenges are often tied to radical changes in behaviour, so that those raising these issues are quickly labelled as spoilsports, whereas the majority prefers to live in a state of denial. Radical changes in behaviour definitely means spoiling the existing game a bit and are by no means easy, but, as will be outlined below, there are also new joys to be gained, such as a more meaningful work life and, ultimately, a planet our children can still live on.

Universities could make it their standard policy to offset carbon emissions for flights and provide financing for it. The CBS has a sustainable event guide and a sustainable campus policy, which help to institutionalize sustainability concerns among faculty, administrators and students. Universities could also provide additional incentives for scholars to take the train, such as allowing first class travel, or disincentives, such as “flagging” the number of flights of each scholar in the internal reporting systems. Those universities that operate with their own travel agency could have a policy to always check train options first before thinking about the plane – the CBS, for instance, already has such a policy in place. If scholars want to take the plane even though there is a train available, they could be asked to justify it, and norms could be exerted that a certain number of hours on the train is acceptable (at CBS, the norm is eight hours). Universities could also systematically measure how many carbon emissions they are producing through scholars flying to conferences and set a goal to reduce carbon emissions by a certain percentage. A study by the University of British Columbia has done exactly that, and it turned out that “business-related air travel emissions at UBC total 26,333 to 31,685 tonnes of carbon dioxide emission each year, equivalent to 63 to 73 per cent of the total annual emissions from the operation of the Vancouver UBC campus”. If reducing such emissions does not work on a voluntary basis, universities could restrict the number of flights per person per year – a suggestion already made by an ETH scholar. Universities could also invest more in virtual meeting room technologies and ease access to them, as well as urge governments and accreditation agencies to consider carbon emissions in the targets they put out.

Scholars can start raising awareness among colleagues to not automatically take the plane, but also think about the train or alternative modes of travel. Giuseppe Delemestri is leading by example here and, together with Helen Etchanchu, has begun to rally collective support among organization scholars in their recent pledge to attend the EGOS conference by train. Following the Scientists for Future initiative, the joint train ride of the people supporting the pledge has led to the Organization Studies for Future website. Even though alternative modes of transport often require more time than flying, which might stand in conflict with family and other professional obligations, the colleagues behind the EGOS by train initiative show that this time can be used very productively for work. And whereas life as academics on an aeroplane might negatively impact on the kind of knowledge that is produced, the time gained through slow travel may actually enhance and enlighten thinking, help in being more constructive, and engage in more meaningful work. Scholars at the Freie Universität Berlin have recently published a pledge to “voluntarily forego short-haul flights up to 1.000 km if the route can be covered by train in 12 hours”.

Professional associations could also start to delegitimize air travel, e.g. by asking each registering conference participant about their intended mode of travel and actively suggesting train options. Conference organizers could also more actively think about alternative modes of participation, though this is a very contentious issue since it requires rethinking the financing models of conferences and in setting up suitable technology revenue. Again, people suggesting virtual modes of interaction are quickly perceived as wanting to spoil the fun of personal meet-ups. Yet, as outlined in this recent Conversation article, the fun need not be spoiled. For instance, multiple site conference formats exist that include both physical interaction in regional hub sites (e.g. one on each continent) and virtual connections. Alternatives are physically held, but no-fly conferences that include distant participants virtually. Either way, a combination of more localized meet-ups combined with virtual interactions – which might even be an asset for knowledge development – and arranging for longer and more fruitful stays if transatlantic flights are made, resulting in them having to be taken less frequently, might be a promising path forward. These changes will likely also contribute to academics’ career sustainability (see below). Smaller but by no means less important steps are to reduce plastics and meat consumption at conferences, given lifestock’s production terrible climat impact.

Career sustainability and meaningfulness

The concept of career sustainability refers to the idea that a sustainable career enjoys not only longevity, but also a meaningful sense of development, conservation and renewal of career-related resources (Van der Heijden & De Vos 2015). As recently argued by Elango Elangovan and Andy Hoffman, the sustainability of academic careers may be threatened by a sense of meaninglessness resulting from a one-dimensional focus on A-journal publications. Along with an increased focus on quantified performance measures and a growing sense of careering in the neoliberal business school, unethical research practices seem to have become the norm rather than the exception. Building on the inspiring article by Elangovan and Hoffman, the network’s debate revolved mainly around the question of what we as researchers can do to enhance a sense of meaningfulness in their academic life. A central question was what academics can give back to their fields of research, especially in the context of researching grand challenges. Many have reported feeling a strong sense of despair resulting from the focus on quantifiable outputs, often in top journals, and the lack of attention paid to the content of the research and the values and emotions of the scholars engaging in this research. One suggestion was to shift the focus of academic conversations much more to the empirical contexts at hand and the emotions involved in doing the research which, as scholars like Gail Whiteman have already outlined, are often strong. Furthermore, thinking about open access forms of publication might provide a stronger sense of giving something back to the public than publishing in proprietary journals – although this strategy is currently not without problems (see below).

The group also discussed that many academics feel emotionally worn out by constantly hearing about the publication successes and productivity of peers and colleagues through social media self-marketing. Most academics are culpable of engaging in this practice, not least because they understandably seek attention for months of hard research work. One solution would be to publicly share news about failures as well – rejections, unpursued research topics, failed motions, lectures that did not go well. Research has shown that the practice of painting perfect selves on social media can lead to depression and feelings of inadequacy.  The readily available publication and citation counts might have the same effect on scholars. As a solution, every academic could be much more careful in painting realistic, not imaginary perfect public pictures of themselves. Everyone can contribute to shift conversations towards content, not performance. PhD program directors could develop more balanced targets and requirements that go beyond a pure focus on A-level publications. Of course, these targets are developed based on university targets, which are developed in the light of targets set by governments and accreditation agencies, which is where we can begin to see the systemic nature of the problem at hand.

The scholary community might even impose an emissions cap on publications. If each faculty member would only be allowed to publish one article a year, guesses are that this article will be rather meaningful and well-received, because others would actually have the time to read rather than cursorily scan and ritualistically cite it. Some funding bodies such as the German Science Foundation or the Austrian FWF have picked up on the problem of academic over-production by allowing applicants to submit only a list of their five or ten most significant publications. And as with climate change, professional associations can be a strong force in questioning current practices. Organization scholars like Alfred Kieser and Margit Osterloh, for instance, have been a strong voice in the context of the German Business Scholar Association in delegitimizing the excessive use of rankings both publicly (such as the Handelsblatt ranking)  and in committees.

The theoretical novelty imperative

The third discussion tried to unpack the possible tension between a strong focus on theoretical novelty by leading journals and pressing empirical challenges. While a strong case has already been made for “rigor, not rigor mortis” in the context of grand challenges research, the credo of theoretical novelty which is repeatedly stressed in editorials is rarely questioned. This credo can be seen as part of a larger societal development in which, throughout the 20th century, the ideal of creativity, individualism and novelty has become the norm in all societal spheres (Reckwitz, 2012). But do grand societal challenges not require scholarship to focus on using the theoretical toolkit at hand – theories of institutionalization, collective action or path dependence, for instance – to explain complex empirical problems and offer insights into how change could be triggered and enacted? The solutions discussed by the group largely revolved around the role of journal editors as agenda-setters and evaluators of what counts as a “theoretical contribution”. One specific idea was to redefine the notion of phenomenon-driven research so that it suits the theoretical standards of leading journals, yet allows for greater room for empirical problem-solving. Of course, some solutions are already in place, such as the foundation of the Academy of Management Discoveries Journal with a stronger focus on pressing empirical situations. Yet, more can be done to put the useful theories we as organization and management scholars have about lock-in and change dynamics on multiple levels into the service of analysing and solving empirical problems at hand.

Open access and open science

A final topic the group discussed revolved around the benefits of open science and the unsustainable business models of proprietary publishers that extract tax money at multiple stages of the publication process (reviewers that work in their free time/on their university payrolls, the research that is being paid for by tax money, fees for making content open access, selling licences to university libraries) while adding little to the research process themselves. While the benefits of open access to knowledge, particularly regarding grand challenges, have often been discussed, the major management journals are not open access. Articles can be made open access through the payment of a fee, but not every scholar has the necessary funds to cover these costs. Pressures for change are currently exerted by scientists as well as by librarians that cancelled their contracts with Elsevier. Network member @leonidobusch has already blogged widely about these initiatives here and elsewhere. Furthermore, several European funding bodies have formed the cOAlition S initiative, requiring that “scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms”. However, as Jerry Davis emphasized during the recent EGOS subplenary on “Grand Challenges: Populism, Post-Truth and False Futures”, current open access journals such as PloS One have been associated with fake science. Thus, a main challenge that remains is finding ways of governing and editing open access journals, and making them comparable to other, proprietary journals that are currently the basis for career and tenure decisions e.g. by including them in rankings.

Epilogue

While none of these four issues might directly count as a societal grand challenge in itself, each is arguably a smaller-scale representation and enactment of larger societal problems. Furthermore, as with other grand challenges, the issues are highly interconnected and thus difficult to change. For example, proprietary publishing business models have played a part in an excessive use of quantitative measures, which has contributed to intensified pressures for visibility and related mobility and a decreased sense of meaningfulness. Many academics feel trapped into a market logic that incentivises publication quantity, visibility and citation counts at all costs. This certainly holds for junior scholars that are held in precarious non-tenured or tenure-track positions with hard performance measures, but increasingly also for tenured scholars who are micromanaged by target agreements. Many of the measures outlined above are small steps rather than major systemic changes. Clearly, individuals cannot be expected to solve our society’s – and our discipline’s – grand challenges. Yet, individuals can act as role models and therefore inspire debate and collective action. So, for now, the research network’s suggestions are as follows:

  • Let’s find leaders within our communities that act as role models for each of the above issues and let’s find areas in which we ourselves can take on such a role. It does not have to be in all areas simultaneously. Each step counts. Displaying changed behaviour helps to inspire others.
  • Let’s not shy away from asking uncomfortable questions and discussing uncomfortable solutions; from intervening and challenging our peers and colleagues; or from consulting and empathizing with them if needed.
  • Let’s appeal to core representatives and gate keepers of our academic community such as journal editors or PhD program organizers. Let’s approach our professional organizations, university administrations, funding bodies and accreditation agencies asking them to take the above issues into account in devising policies and normative statements. Change in public policies is most likely to occur if it is demanded bottom-up.
  • In short, let’s draw on our own toolkit as social scientists, which should equip us well for actively addressing, rather than shying away, from grand challenges. Particularly, in the spirit of our research network, let’s look at new forms of organizing critically – as drivers of new problems and as potential solutions – for the challenges faced by our own field.

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.

Screenshot of the impressively animated header image of »Orders Beyond Borders«

Recently the Global Governance Unit at the WZB Berlin Social Science Centre led by Michael Zürn has launched a new blog entitled “Orders Beyond Borders“. The first post features an Interview with Michael Zürn, in which he also reflects on the rationale behind starting a research blog:

In particular, the Blog is meant to provide a means for those who are interested in our research to get the main messages without having to read 400-page books that some of the doctoral students write after finishing their PhDs. Secondly, the Blog is meant to be a way that we can convey some of the practical and political ideas that follow from the type of work we are doing. […] In addition, it is important to us that the Blog also acts as a platform for interacting and engaging with the community.

The interview is also available as an audio file, thereby constituting the first episode of what is going to be a series of podcast interviews. Of course, the team behind the blog is also on Twitter under @obbblog. We are looking forward to reading more from our fellow bloggers and recommend subscribing to it immediately.

(leonhard)

Guest blogger Rolf Künnemann reports on new directions for cross-border governance and the challenge of realising Extraterritorial Obligations (ETOs) for human rights.

ETOs_wordcloud

Human rights and states’ obligations are two sides of the same coin. While states are based on their territories, many of their human rights obligations go beyond borders. These “extraterritorial obligations” are increasingly recognised as essential for human rights to provide the foundations of an international people-based political and legal order.

The ETO movement argues that a focus on human rights beyond borders is key to effectively addressing burning issues like the globalized destruction of ecosystems and the climate, the depletion of resources to the detriment of future generations, the dysfunctional international financie and trade system, the oppression of rural communities, ethnocide, the impunity of transnational corporations, and the human rights accountability of intergovernmental organisations. Read the rest of this entry »

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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