Small businesses in developing countries, as part of global supply chains, are sometimes assumed to respond in a straightforward manner to institutional demands for improved working conditions. This article problematizes this perspective. Drawing upon extensive qualitative data from Tirupur’s knitwear export industry in India, we highlight owner-managers’ agency in avoiding or circumventing these demands. The small businesses here actively engage in irresponsible business practices and “evasion” institutional work to disrupt institutional demands in three ways: undermining assumptions and values, dissociating consequences, and accumulating autonomy and political strength. This “evasion” work is supported by three conditions: void (in labor welfare mechanisms), distance (from institutional monitors), and contradictions (between value systems). Through detailed empirical findings, the article contributes to research on both small business social responsibility and institutional work.
- developing countries
- global supply chains
- institutional work
- small business social irresponsibility
- working conditions
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Business and International Management