Advertisement

Protecting Environment or People? Pitfalls and Merits of Informal Labour in the Congolese Recycling Industry

  • Clément Longondjo EtambakongaEmail author
  • Julia Roloff
Original Paper

Abstract

Despite the fact that informal labour is a widespread phenomenon, the business ethics literature tends to describe it as a problem that needs to be overcome, rather than contemplating its merits. Informal labour is linked to poor working conditions, low-income and insufficient protection. However, it is also a survival strategy and upholds essential services, such as waste collection and recycling. Through the lens of postmodern ethics, we analyse 45 interviews with formal and informal waste management workers in Kinshasa. The study explores the functioning and limits of recycling services in a metropolis, focusing on the experience of African workers and entrepreneurs. A complex picture of ethical challenges and individual business and survival strategies emerges from the analysis. Our findings demonstrate that labour decisions of voiceless people cannot be reduced to being rational or desperate choices, but that they reflect a careful elaboration of currently available options and strategies for the future. The study contributes to our understanding of entrepreneurship in a post-conflict context, the role of informal labour in the functioning of formal businesses in Africa and the contribution of postmodern theory to the study of businesses in non-Western societies.

Keywords

Informal sector Informal labour Recycling Waste management African entrepreneurship Postmodern ethics Post-conflict 

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

References

  1. Arnold, D. G., & Bowie, N. E. (2003). Sweatshops and respect for persons. Business Ethics Quarterly,13(2), 221–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arnold, D. G., & Bowie, N. E. (2007). Respect for workers in global supply chains: Advancing the debate over sweatshops. Business Ethics Quarterly,17(1), 135–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnold, D. G., & Valentin, A. (2013). Corporate social responsibility at the base of the pyramid. Journal of Business Research,66(10), 1904–1914.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aron, J. (2003). Building institutions in post-conflict African economies. Journal of International Development,15, 471–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aryeetey, E. (2015). The informal economy, economic growth, and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa: Current and Emerging Issues, 159.Google Scholar
  6. Baruah, B. (2004). Earning their keep and keeping what they earn: A critique of organizing strategies for South Asian women in the informal sector. Gender, Work & Organization,11(6), 605–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bauman, Z. (1989). Modernity and the Holocaust. Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  8. Bauman, Z. (1993). Postmodern ethics. Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  9. Bauman, Z. (2004). Wasted lives: Modernity and its outcasts. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  10. Bauman, Z. (2008). Does ethics have a chance in a world of consumers?. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Belser, P. (2005). Forced labour and human trafficking: Estimating the profits. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1838403.
  12. Biey, E. (2007). L’Assainissement de Kinshasa: Vision du Gouvernement Provincial. In Atelier sur le cadre institutionnel de l’assainissement à Kinshasa, Kinshasa du 30–31 Octobre 2007 (p. 5).Google Scholar
  13. Bos, R. T., & Willmott, H. (2001). Towards a post-dualistic business ethics: Interweaving reason and emotion in working life. Journal of Management Studies,38(6), 769–793.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carson, T. L. (2012). Free exchange for mutual benefit: Sweatshops and Maitland’s ‘Classical Liberal Standard’. Journal of Business Ethics,112, 127–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Caruana, R., Crane, A., & Ingram, C. (2018). Modern slavery: The role of prototypes in categorizing extreme labor exploitation. Academy of Management Proceedings,2018(1), 14065.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Castells, M., & Portes, A. (1989). World underneath: The origins, dynamics, and effects of the informal economy. In A. Portes, M. Castells, & L. A. Benton (Eds.), The informal economy. Studies in advanced and less developed countries (pp. 11–37). Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Ciupijus, Z. (2010). Ethical pitfalls of temporary labour migration: A critical review of issues. Journal of Business Ethics,97, 9–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Corbin, J. M., & Strauss, A. (1990). Grounded theory research: Procedures, canons, and evaluative criteria. Qualitative Sociology,13, 3–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Crane, A. (2013). Modern slavery as a management practice: Exploring the conditions and capabilities for human exploitation. Academy of Management Review,38(1), 49–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Crane, A., LeBaron, G., Phung, K., Behbahani, L., & Allain, J. (2018). Innovations in the business models of modern slavery: The dark side of business model innovation. Academy of Management Proceedings,2018(1), 13381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Cummings, P. M. (2016). Child labor and household composition: Determinants of child labor in Mexico. Asian Journal of Latin American Studies,29(3), 29–54.Google Scholar
  22. Darbi, W. P. K., Hall, C. M., & Knott, P. (2016). The informal sector: A review and agenda for management research. International Journal of Management Reviews,20(2), 301–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. De Soto, H. (1989). The other path: The economic answer to terrorism. London: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  24. Dembek, K., Sivasubramaniam, N., & Chmielewski, D. A. (2019). A systematic review of the bottom/base of the pyramid literature: Cumulative evidence and future directions. Journal of Business Ethics.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-019-04105-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Dias, C. (2004). Olandah Equinos’s view of slavery in his narrative of the life. Underground Review,1, 5–10.Google Scholar
  26. Dilata, X. (2008). The conditions of employment of waste collectors: A case study of waste paper collectors in Dobsonville, Soweto. Unpublished Master’s thesis Submitted to the Department of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.Google Scholar
  27. Donaldson, T., & Dunfee, T. W. (1999). Ties that bind: A social contracts approach to business ethics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Business School Press.Google Scholar
  28. Elkan, W. (1959). Criteria for industrial development in Uganda. East African Economic Review,5(2), 123–137.Google Scholar
  29. Ezeah, C., Fazakerley, J. A., & Roberts, C. L. (2013). Emerging trends in informal sector recycling in developing and transition countries. Waste Management,33(11), 2509–2519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. George, G., Kotha, R., Parikh, P., Alnuaimi, T., & Bahaj, A. S. (2015). Social structure, reasonable gain, and entrepreneurship in Africa. Strategic Management Journal.  https://doi.org/10.1002/smj.2381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gerxhani, K. (2004). The informal sector in developed and less developed countries: A literature survey. Public Choice,120(3–4), 267–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gioia, D. A., Corley, K. C., & Hamilton, A. L. (2012). Seeking qualitative rigor in inductive research: Notes on the Gioia methodology. Organizational Research Methods,16(1), 15–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago, IL: Aldine.Google Scholar
  34. Godfrey, P. C. (2011). Toward a theory of the informal economy. Academy of Management Annals,5(1), 231–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Great Business Vision (GBV). (2015). Sustainable solid waste management business in Africa: Experience from Goma/DRC–case study and perspective on private sector participation in Africa. Ibanda: Great Vision Business (GBV).Google Scholar
  36. Gunsilius, E., Spies, S., García-Cortés, S., Medina, M., Dias, S., Scheinberg, A., et al. (2011). Recovering resources, creating opportunities: Integrating the informal sector into solid waste management. Deutsche Gesellschaft für InternationaleZusammenarbeit (GIZ), Eschborn, Germany: Eschborn.Google Scholar
  37. Hart, K. (1973). Informal income opportunities and urban government in Ghana. Journal of Modern African Studies,11, 61–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hazans, M. (2011). Informal workers across Europe: Evidence from 30 European countries. Institute for the Study of Labor Discussion Paper No. 5871, The World Bank.Google Scholar
  39. Hochschild, A. (1998). King Leopold’s ghost. London: McMillan.Google Scholar
  40. Horn, Z. (2010). Coping with crisis: Lingering recession, rising inflation and the informal workforce. Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), Cambridge, MA. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from http://www.wiego.org/sites/default/files/publications/files/Horn-Global-Economic-Crisis-2_0.pdf.
  41. International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF). (2010). Missed the goal for workers: The reality of soccer ball stitchers in Pakistan, India, Thailand, and China. International Labor Rights Forum, Washington, DC. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from file:///C:/Users/presentation.ESCFILES/Downloads/ILRF_soccerball_report.pdf.Google Scholar
  42. International Labour Office. (1972). Employment, incomes and equality: A strategy for increasing productive employment in Kenya. International Labour Office, Geneva. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://www.ilo.org/public/libdoc/ilo/1972/72B09_608_engl.pdf.
  43. International Labour Office. (2013). Women and men in the informal economy: Statistical picture. International Labour Office, Geneva. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://www.ilo.org/public/libdoc/ilo/1972/72B09_608_engl.pdf.
  44. Iskandar, L., Shaker, B., & El-Sherbiny, R. (2010). Economic aspects of the informal sector in solid waste management: City report for the city of Cairo. GIZ, Eschborn, Germany. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://www.giz.de/de/downloads/giz2011-cwg-booklet-economicaspects.pdf.
  45. Jamali, D., Lund-Thomsen, P., & Khara, N. (2017). CSR institutionalized myths in developing countries: An imminent threat of selective decoupling. Business & Society,56(3), 454–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Jamali, D., & Neville, B. (2011). Convergence versus divergence of CSR in developing countries: An embedded multi-layered institutional lens. Journal of Business Ethics,102(4), 599–621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Jamali, D., & Sidani, Y. (2011). Is CSR counterproductive in developing countries: The unheard voices of change. Journal of Change Management,11(1), 69–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kapoor, A. (2007). The SEWA way: Shaping another future for informal labour. Futures,39, 554–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Karanja, A. M., Moses, M. I., & Davies, T. C. (2004). Reuse, recovery and recycling of urban inorganic solid waste in Nairobi. In I. Baud, J. Post, & C. Furedy (Eds.), Solid waste management and recycling: Actors, partnerships and policies in Hyderabad, India and Nairobi, Kenya (pp. 161–194). London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kelemen, M., & Peltonen, T. (2001). Ethics, morality and the subject: The contribution of Zygmunt Bauman and Michel Foucault to postmodern business ethics. Scandinavian Journal of Management,17(2), 151–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Khalid, R. U., & Seuring, S. (2019). Analyzing base-of-the-pyramid research from a (sustainable) supply chain perspective. Journal of Business Ethics,155(3), 663–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Kolk, A., & Lenfant, F. (2012). Business-NGO collaboration in a conflict setting: Partnership activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Business & Society,51(3), 478–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Kolk, A., & Rivera-Santos, M. (2016). The state of research on Africa in business and management: Insights from a systematic review of key international journals. Business & Society,57(3), 415–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. La Porta, R. L., & Shleifer, A. (2008). The unofficial economy and economic development (Working Paper No. 14520). National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://mba.tuck.dartmouth.edu/pages/faculty/rafael.laporta/docs/publications/UnofficialEconomy.pdf.
  55. Larson, J. E. (2002). Informality, illegality, and inequality. Yale Law & Policy Review,20, 137.Google Scholar
  56. LeBaron, G. (2013). Subcontracting is not illegal, but is it unethical: Business ethics, force labor, and economic success. Brown Journal World Affaires,20, 237–249.Google Scholar
  57. Lelo, N. F. (2008). Kinshasa, ville et environnement (p. 276). Paris: Editions L’Harmattan.Google Scholar
  58. Lelo, N. F. (2011). Kinshasa: Planification et Amenagement (p. 213). Paris: Editions L’Harmattan.Google Scholar
  59. Lelo, N. F. (2018). Les Bidonvilled de Kinshasa (p. 223). Paris: Editions L’Harmattan.Google Scholar
  60. Lenkiewicz, Z., & Webster, M. (2017). Making waste work: A toolkit for community waste management in low- and middle-income countries (CIWM 2017–18 Presidential Report). CIWM, Northampton, UK. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://wasteaid.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Making-Waste-Work-Executive-Summary-v1.pdf.
  61. Letiche, H. (1998). Business Ethics: (In-)Justice and (Anti-)Law—Reflections on Derrida, Bauman and Lipovetsky. In M. Parker (Ed.), Ethics & organizations (pp. 122–149). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Looney, R. (2006). Economic consequences of conflict: The rise of Iraq’s informal economy. Journal of Economic Issues,40(4), 991–1007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Longondjo, C. (2015). Urbanization and poverty: Thinking beyonds millennium development goals. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Retrospect (pp. 31–44). Cham: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Lund-Thomsen, P., Nadvi, K., Chan, A., Khara, K., & Xue, H. (2012). Labour in global value chains: Work conditions in football manufacturing in China, India and Pakistan. Development and Change,43, 1211–1237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Lyotard, J. F. (2018). La condition postmoderne: Rapport sur le savoir. Paris: Minuit.Google Scholar
  66. Mahadea, D., & Zogli, L.-K. J. (2018). Constraints to growth in informal sector activities and formalisation: A case study of Ghanaian slums. Southern African Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management,10(1), 1–9.Google Scholar
  67. Maitland, I. (2004). The great non-debate over international sweatshops. In T. Beauchamp & N. Bowie (Eds.), Ethical theory and business (7th ed., pp. 579–590). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  68. Maitlis, S., & Lawrence, T. B. (2007). Triggers and enablers of sensegiving in organizations. Academy of Management Journal,50(1), 57–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Medina, M. (2008). The world’s scavengers: Salvaging for sustainable consumption and production. Lanham, MD: Alta Mira Press.Google Scholar
  70. Mezzadri, A. (2014). Indian garment clusters and CSR norms: Incompatible agendas at the bottom of the garment commodity chain. Oxford Development Studies,42(2), 238–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Mirchandani, R. (2005). Reconstructing Zygmunt Bauman’s postmodern sociology of morality. Social theory as politics in knowledge (pp. 301–335). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Muamba, M. P., & Ntumba, M. M. (2014). Pratiques locales et performance globale des entreprises: Le cas des PMEs de Mbujimayi au Congo-Kinshasa, 12 eme Congres International Francophone en Entrepreneuriat et PMEs, 29–31 Octobre 2014, Agadir, Morocco.Google Scholar
  73. Mueller, A. W. (2005). A value chain analysis of cardboard collection in Inner City Durban, South Africa. Unpublished Master’s thesis submitted to the School of Development Studies, University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban.Google Scholar
  74. Nkulu, C. B. L., Casas, L., Haufroid, V., De Putter, T., Saenen, N. D., Kayembe-Kitenge, T., et al. (2018). Sustainability of artisanal mining of cobalt in DR Congo. Nature Sustainability,1(9), 495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Nwabuzor, A. (2005). Corruption and development: New initiatives in economic openness and strengthened rule of law. Journal of Business Ethics,59(1/2), 121–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Okpara, J. O. (2011). Factors constraining the growth and survival of SMEs in Nigeria: Implications for poverty alleviation. Management Research Review,34(2), 156–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Peattie, L. (1987). An idea in good currency and how it grew: The informal sector. World Development,15(7), 851–860.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Portes, A., Castells, M., & Benton, L. A. (1989). The policy implications of informality. In A. Portes, M. Castells, & L. A. Benton (Eds.), The informal economy: Studies in advanced and less developed countries (pp. 298–311). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  79. Portes, A., & Haller, W. (2005). The informal economy. In N. J. Smelser & R. Swedberg (Eds.), The handbook of economic sociology (pp. 403–425). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press—Russel Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  80. Prahalad, C. K. (2006). The fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing.Google Scholar
  81. Prahalad, C. K., & Hart, S. L. (2002). Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. Strategy + Business,26, 2–14.Google Scholar
  82. Prunier, G. (2009). From genocide to continental war. The ‘Congolese’ conflict and the crisis of the contemporary Africa. London: Hust & Company.Google Scholar
  83. Ranganathan, M. (2014). “Mafias” in the waterscape: Urban informality and everyday public authority in Bangalore. Water Alternatives,7(1), 89–105.Google Scholar
  84. Reyntjens, F. (2009). The great African war: Congo and regional geopolitics, 1996–2006. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Samson, M. (2010). Organizing reclaimers in Tshwane, South AfricaLessons from Top down and bottom up experiences. WIEGO, Cambridge, MA. , Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://www.wiego.org/sites/default/files/publications/files/Samson_WIEGO_OB5.pdf.
  86. Scheinberg, A., Simpson, M., Gupt, Y., Anschütz, J., Haenen, I., Tasheva, E., et al. (2010). Economic aspects of the informal sector in solid waste management. GTZ (German Technical Cooperation—now GIZ), Eschborn, Germany.Google Scholar
  87. Shomba K. S., Mukoka Nsenda F., Olela N. D., Kaminar T. M., & Mbalanda, W. (2015). Monographie de la Ville de Kinshasa. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://www.idrc.ca/sites/default/files/sp/Documents%20EN/Mongraphie%20Ville%20de%20Kinshasa.pdf.
  88. Simatele, D., & Longondjo, E. C. (2015). Scavenging in Kinshasa: Beyond livelihood strategies for the urban poor in the DR Congo. Habitat International,49, 266–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Skinner, C. (2002). Understanding formal and informal economy labour market dynamics: A conceptual and statistical review with reference to South Africa. School of Development Studies: University of Natal.Google Scholar
  90. Spring, A. (2009). African women in the entrepreneurial landscape: Reconsidering the formal and informal sectors. Journal of African Business,10(1), 11–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Standing, G. (1997). Globalisation, labour flexibility and insecurity: The era of market regulation. European Journal of Industrial Relations,3(1), 7–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Trefon, T. (2004). Ordre et Désordres à Kinshasa. Reponses Populaires a la faillite de l’Etat. Cahiers Africains 61–62. Paris Musee royal de l’Afrique Centrale, L’Harmattan. p. 256.Google Scholar
  93. UN Data. (2017). World statistics pocketbook. Available online Retrieved July 2018, from http://data.un.org/.
  94. Vachon, C. J. (2013). Burma just around the corner: When US corporations employ refugees. Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society,28, 159.Google Scholar
  95. Van Rooyen, E. J., & Antonites, A. J. (2007). Formalising the informal sector: A case study on the City of Johannesburg. Journal of Public Administration,42(3), 324–346.Google Scholar
  96. Vanek, J., Chen, M. A., Carré, F., Heintz, J., & Hussmanns, R. (2014). Statistics on the informal economy: Definitions, regional estimates and challenges (Working Paper Statistics 2). WIEGO, Cambridge, MA. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from http://www.wiego.org/sites/default/files/publications/files/Vanek-Statistics-WIEGO-WP2.pdf.
  97. Velis, C. A., Wilson, D. C., Rocca, O., Smith, S. R., Mavropoulos, A., & Cheeseman, C. R. (2012). An analytical framework and tool (‘InteRa’) for integrating the informal recycling sector in waste and resource management systems in developing countries. Waste Management & Research,30(9_Suppl), 43–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Webb, J. W., Bruton, G. D., Tihanyi, L., & Ireland, R. D. (2013). Research on entrepreneurship in the informal economy: Framing a research agenda. Journal of Business Venturing,28(5), 598–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Webb, J. W., Tihanyi, L., Ireland, R. D., & Sirmon, D. G. (2009). You say illegal, I say legitimate: Entrepreneurship in the informal economy. Academy of Management Review,34, 492–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. Williams, C. C., & Bezeredi, S. (2018). Explaining and tackling the informal economy: A dual informal labour market approach. Employee Relations,40(5), 889–902.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Williams, C. C., & Horodnic, I. A. (2015). Explaining and tackling the shadow economy in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania: A tax morale approach. Baltic Journal of Economics,15(2), 81–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Wilson, D. C., Araba, A. O., Chinwah, K., & Cheeseman, C. R. (2009). Building recycling rates through the informal sector. Waste Management,29, 629–635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. World Bank. (2005). World Bank Forecasts Global Poverty to Fall Below 10% for First Time; Major Hurdles Remain in Goal to End Poverty by 2030. Press Release. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2015/10/04/world-bank-forecasts-global-poverty-to-fall-below-10-for-first-time-major-hurdles-remain-in-goal-to-end-poverty-by-2030.
  104. Zwolinski, M. (2007). Sweatshops, choice and exploitation. Business Ethics Quarterly,17(4), 689–727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Management and Organization DepartmentRennes School of BusinessRennes CedexFrance

Personalised recommendations