Corporate Codes of Conduct and Labour Standards in Global Supply Chains
: Implementation of the Codes in Vietnam's Garment Factories

  • Dong Hoang

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Multinational corporations (MNCs) in the West have introduced voluntary codes of conduct (CoC) in global supply chains to promote the application of international labour standards and labour rights in their suppliers’ factories. Previous studies on CoC implementation have addressed various problems of its effectiveness but they are limited to a rather narrow context of business relationships between MNCs and factory-based suppliers. My research examines CoC implementation in a wider global supply chain and domestic institutional context. It aims to: firstly, assess how CoC is implemented throughout the multi-layered clothing supply chain and, secondly, identify structural and institutional constraints which hinder the effectiveness of CoC.The thesis employs qualitative analyses of 398 web-based documents from the 75 largest clothing brands and retailers in US and UK markets. It also provides data from 62 in-depth and semi-structured interviews of garment factories managers, workers, vendors, labour auditors and local officials in Vietnam, as well as representatives from UK retailers and campaign groups. The thesis analyses various sets of relationship among these actors and in two dimensions of the environments in which CoC operates: global supply network structure and domestic employment relations system.My thesis makes three original contributions. Firstly it challenges the presumed logic of CoC aimed at supporting workers, because it shows evidence from the workers’ perspective that CoC not only fails to support workers’ needs but also faces resistance from them in non-complying factories in Vietnam. Secondly, I argue that the oversimplified assumption of principal-agent control model between MNCs and suppliers’ factories, which underpins the CoC arrangement, fails to recognise the complex structure of supply network with interdependent operations and multi-level flow of commands. Finally, my thesis exposes the weakness of market initiatives like CoC: when their pledges to improve working conditions and promote workers’ rights clash with economic and socio-political priorities of the local government, the latter prevails. Taking the business and institutional dimensions together I have developed a framework for a more comprehensive assessment of CoC and similar voluntary initiatives that can be applied by other researchers in similar contexts.
Date of Award31 Oct 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorBryn Jones (Supervisor) & Graham Brown (Supervisor)


  • codes of conduct
  • global supply chain
  • labour standards
  • garment workers

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