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Emerging roles of lead buyer governance for sustainability across global production networks

Alexander, Rachel (2020) Emerging roles of lead buyer governance for sustainability across global production networks. Journal of Business Ethics, 162 (2). 269 - 290. ISSN 0167-4544

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s10551-019-04199-4


Global production networks (GPNs) connect multiple producers involved in fragmented manufacturing processes. Major brands and retailers, considered as lead firms, are under increasing pressure to ensure products made through GPNs are produced sustainably. Theories of governance developed to understand dynamics in outsourced production can provide insight into this issue. However, these theories and related empirical research have often focused on relationships between lead firms and upper-tier suppliers. When manufacturing involves multiple fragmented stages, understanding the role of lead firms becomes more difficult. This article considers new governance roles that lead firms, as buyers, are playing when attempting to promote sustainable practices across all stages of production for buyer-driven industries. The focus is exploring the nature of new governance approaches which lead firms have developed in order to address diverse sustainability challenges found within GPNs, particularly related to lower-tier suppliers. These approaches can involve lead firms working through vertical buyer–seller links or developing new horizontal relationships, which link lead firms with lower-tier suppliers and governance processes in these suppliers’ local productive systems. The findings draw from field research examining how top UK garment retailers provide governance to producers involved in creating cotton garments in India and a review of publicised policies and practices of these retailers related to promoting sustainable production. Five types of governance mechanisms that can involve vertical or horizontal links are identified. Considering the growth of new governance relationships expands previous conceptions of the roles of lead firm governance.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2019 The Author
Divisions: Management
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Date Deposited: 30 May 2019 10:03
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2024 07:36

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