Rethinking global value chains and sustainability

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Peter Lund-Thomsen


Copenhagen Business School


DKK 785,728




Monograph Fellowships


Global corporations, such as H&M, Nike, and Walmart, have increasingly begun to proactively embrace ‘sustainability’ in global value chains, which refers to the integration of economic, social, and environmental issues in the management of their vast networks of suppliers globally. However, just how ‘sustainable’ are these multinational companies in their sourcing practices in global value chains? This ground-breaking monograph will be the first to theorize and empirically investigate how their sourcing and sustainability policies affect local enterprises, workers, and the environment with respect to three new and under-investigated areas: their purchasing practices, transparency in brand supplier networks, and their efforts to combat climate change.


In the last 20 years, global value chain analysis has sought to theorize and empirically investigate how multinational companies have organized their networks of suppliers in developing countries, and how suppliers have attempted to upgrade their position in these chains. Moreover, the extant literature has made substantial progress in terms of theorizing and empirically examining how the implementation of the ethical guidelines of multinational companies, or so-called corporate codes of conduct, have only achieved modest improvements in the conditions of workers around the world. However, we have much less knowledge about the environmental impacts of the brands’ sourcing and sustainability requirements, and how social and environmental impacts are interlinked and change over time.


I will draw on more than 15 years of research on whether the brands live up to their stated promises of procuring and selling goods from developing-country producers in an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable way including studies of how brands have sought to address workers' conditions and environmental pollution in the leather tanning industry of Pakistan and the football manufacturing and cotton industries of Pakistan, India, and China. The book will also utilize new data from the Better Buying Index and the Fashion Transparency Index, that rate the purchasing practices of and transparency levels of brands as well as Geographical Information System data to map how brands – through their global sourcing practices – create changing CO2 hotspots around the world.

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