The Promise and Limits of Private Power:

Promoting Labor Standards in a Global Economy

By: Richard M. Locke

228 pp


This book examines and evaluates various private initiatives to enforce fair labor standards within global supply chains. Using unique data (internal audit reports, and access to more than 120 supply chain factories and 700 interviews in 14 countries) from several major global brands, including NIKE, HP, and the International Labor Organization's Factory Improvement Programme in Vietnam, this book examines both the promise and the limitations of different approaches to actually improve working conditions, wages, and working hours for the millions of workers employed in today's global supply chains. Through a careful, empirically grounded analysis of these programs, this book illustrates the mix of private and public regulation needed to address these complex issues in a global economy.

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1. The rise of private voluntary regulation in a global economy

2. The promise and perils of private compliance programs

3. Does private compliance improve labor standards? Lessons from Nike

4. Capability building and its limitations

5. Alternative approaches to capability building: a tale of two Nike suppliers

6. Are we looking in the wrong places?: Labor standards and upstream business practices in global supply chains

7. Complements or substitutes? Private power, public regulation, and the enforcement of labor standards in global supply chains

Conclusion: collaboration, compliance, and the construction of new institutions in a world of global supply chains.