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Embedding CSR Values: The Global Footwear Industry’s Evolving Governance Structure

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Many transnational corporations and international organizations have embraced corporate social responsibility (CSR) to address criticisms of working and environmental conditions at subcontractors’ factories. While CSR ‹codes of conduct’ are easy to draft, supplier compliance has been elusive. Even third-party monitoring has proven an incomplete solution. This article proposes that an alteration in the supply chain’s governance, from an arms-length market model to a collaborative partnership, often will be necessary to effectuate CSR. The market model forces contractors to focus on price and delivery as they compete for the lead firm’s business, rendering CSR observance secondary, at best. A collaborative partnership where the lead firm gives select suppliers secure product orders and other benefits removes disincentives and adds incentives for CSR compliance. In time, the suppliers’ CSR habit should shift their business philosophy toward pursuing CSR as an end in itself, regardless of buyer incentives and monitoring. This article examines these hypotheses in the context of the athletic footwear sector with Nike, Inc. and its suppliers as the specific case study. The data collected and conclusions reached offer strategies for advancing CSR beyond the superficial and often ineffectual ‹code of conduct’ stage.

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This article was supported by Dong-A University Research Fund in 2007.

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Correspondence to Suk-Jun Lim.

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Lim, SJ., Phillips, J. Embedding CSR Values: The Global Footwear Industry’s Evolving Governance Structure. J Bus Ethics 81, 143–156 (2008).

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