Clothing From Ethiopia: How Civil Society Initiatives Can Contribute To Sustainable Industry Development in Institutional Void Countries

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Sarah Castaldi


Copenhagen Business School


DKK 1,324,238




Reintegration Fellowships


This project investigates how civil society organization (CSO)-led projects, as opposed to business-led (e.g. Bangladesh Accord) or multi-stakeholder initiatives (e.g. Ethical Trading Initiative), can enhance the social sustainable development of clothing suppliers in Ethiopia. As a novel form of supply chain governance, the role and impact of such initiatives is still unknown. Although CSOs can improve social sustainability in clothing supply chains by undertaking initiatives that go beyond the scope and responsibility of 'for-profit' supply chain members, it appears that the impact of CSO projects in Ethiopia, dubbed as the next clothing hub, often remains unclear not least because of the challenge to effectively navigate in Ethiopia's weak and politically contested country environment.


The current trend in the clothing industry is to source from Ethiopia, a context where the industry is nascent but emerging, and embedded in weak and politically contested institutions. Given the persistence of scandals in the clothing industry, academics and policy makers have called for more CSO involvement in supply chains to understand and cope with such challenges more successfully. This project is particularly important to Denmark, since the Danish government committed itself to supporting Ethiopia's ambition of becoming a lower middle-income economy by 2025 (i.e., GTP II), a goal defined by the local government, which also identifies economic and social upgrading of the clothing industry as one of the priority areas to help achieving such status.


Using a mixed method design combing a deep case study and survey methodology, this project sheds light on the role and impact of CSO-led initiatives. Specifically, I will investigate the role of Solidaridad, a Dutch CSO, which aims to build up sustainable and inclusive clothing supply chains in Ethiopia. Solidaridad's Better Mill Initiative (BMI), a CSO-led initiative in the Ethiopian clothing sector, is currently at mid-term (2016-2020), and focuses mainly on building local capacities at and transferring market knowledge to first-tier clothing suppliers. Solidaridad will facilitate data access to local stakeholder groups in Ethiopia, as well as knowledge dissemination among a wider - practitioner-oriented - network.

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