chapter  9
15 Pages

Value chain responsibility in the global South


Diverging views exist on whether a more responsible and/or a more Southernled form of globalisation are likely to emerge (Zadek 2006; Gu et al. 2008). What is clear is that we now find ourselves in a transition phase. The current era has been characterised by a capitalist growth logic, unsustainable use of resources and enormous prosperity in some places paired with continued poverty in others. The coming era calls for more integrated attention to sustainability, equity and solidarity. A key question is whether socially responsible and environmentally sustainable forms of capitalism are possible, and to what extent these might be built upon a strengthened morality in the private sector itself (Macdonald and Marshall 2010). But is this merely wishful thinking, or are such processes really taking shape? In this chapter I focus on social responsibility issues (see ILO (2002) for an overview of ‘decent work’ indicators, and Barrientos and Smith (2006), for the most comprehensive social responsibility assessment to date). This chapter takes a first step in contributing to a more empirical debate on where and when private sector actors are more likely to prioritise responsibility issues. Section 9.2 develops an initial typology of where and when firms are more likely to make responsibility issues a part of their core business strategy, visualised through a pyramid with four layers. Section 8.3 focuses on the agency of private sector firms, and investigates factors that influence the choices made by firms on their level of engagement with social responsibility as a part of their core business strategy (their position in the pyramid). Section 8.4 brings together state, civil society and longer-term change perspectives to frame the structure in which firm agency is embedded (the shape of the pyramid and the relative size of the four layers). Section 8.5 offers preliminary conclusions on this framework and tentatively identifies possible pathways on how attention for responsibility might be mainstreamed in various institutional settings.