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Social sustainability in fashion supply chains : understanding social standard implementation failures in Vietnam and Indonesia using agency theory

  • This paper explores why and how dominant international social standards used in the fashion industry are prone to implementation failures. A qualitative multiple-case study method was conducted, using purposive sampling to select 13 apparel supply chain actors. Data were collected through on-site semi-structured face-to-face interviews. The findings of the study are interpreted by using core tenets of agency theory. The case study findings clearly highlight why and how multi-tier apparel supply chains fail to implement social standards effectively. As a consequence of substantial goal conflicts and information asymmetries, sourcing agents and suppliers are driven to perform opportunistic behaviors in form of hidden characteristics, hidden intentions, and hidden actions, which significantly harm social standards. Fashion retailers need to empower their corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments by awarding an integrative role to sourcing decisions. Moreover, accurate calculation of orders, risk sharing, cost sharing, price premiums, and especially guaranteed order continuity for social compliance are critical to reduce opportunistic behaviors upstream of the supply chain. The development of social standards is highly suggested, e.g., by including novel metrics such as the assessment of buying practices or the evaluation of capacity planning at factories and the strict inclusion of subcontractors’ social performances. This paper presents evidence from multiple Vietnamese and Indonesian cases involving sourcing agents as well as Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers on a highly sensitive topic. With the development of the conceptual framework and the formulation of seven related novel propositions, this paper unveils the ineffectiveness of social standards, offers guidance for practitioners, and contributes to the neglected social dimension in sustainable supply chain management research and accountability literature.

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Author of HS ReutlingenKöksal, Deniz; Strähle, Jochen
Erschienen in:Sustainability
Place of publication:Basel
Document Type:Journal article
Publication year:2021
Tag:SSCM; developing countries; fashion/apparel industry; social standards; social sustainability
Page Number:36
First Page:1
Last Page:36
Article Number:2159
DDC classes:333.7 Natürliche Ressourcen, Energie und Umwelt
Open access?:Ja
Licence (German):License Logo  Creative Commons - CC BY - Namensnennung 4.0 International