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Organisational geographies of corporate responsibility: A UK-US comparison of retailers' ethical trading initiatives

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alexandra Hughes, Dr Martin Buttle


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Ethical trade, involving corporate codes of conduct for sites of production, has become a key means through which labour in retailers' global supply chains is regulated. Yet, there is evidence to suggest that retail corporations vary markedly in their approaches to ethical trade and that such variation is shaped, in part, by the national-institutional contexts in which retailers are based. This article explores this insight by evaluating the distinct roles played by multi-stakeholder initiatives for ethical trade in the UK and USA. While the UK's core multi-stakeholder initiative, the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), encompasses retailers from a variety of sectors and takes a developmental and continuous learning approach to ethical trade, the US multi-stakeholder initiatives are focussed more on corporate accountability based on compliance monitoring exclusively in the clothing sector. Given recent organisational attempts to foster transnational dialogue between multi-stakeholder initiatives, though, we argue that the precise ways in which national-institutional contexts shape retailers' ethical trading approaches are fluid and mutable. We contribute to the literature on the governance of global supply chains, retailer power and corporate responsibility by emphasising the political significance of national-institutional environments. However, in line with notions of relational economic geography, we understand these national-institutional environments as active and dynamic contexts, and accentuate the coalitional ways in which nationally based organisations evolve in their home countries and go on to shape broader transnational agendas for ethical trade. © The Author (2007). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hughes A, Buttle M, Wrigley N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Economic Geography

Year: 2007

Volume: 7

Issue: 4

Pages: 491-513

ISSN (print): 1468-2702

ISSN (electronic): 1468-2710

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/jeg/lbm011


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