The role of supply chain intermediaries in regulating labour standards in the global fast fashion supply chain

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This research has investigated the role of supply chain intermediaries in regulating labour standards within the problematic and highly competitive fast fashion industry. There are evidently violations of labour standards in supplier’s factories in the fashion supply chain. There is a lack of control and conflicting interests between retailers and suppliers. The necessity of including a third party in the buyer-supplier relationship has already been recognized by researchers. These third-party companies are called supply chain intermediaries. After reviewing the literature on labour standards, fast fashion and supply chain intermediaries, an empirical research was set up in order to discover the role of intermediaries in regulating labour standards in the supply chain. Seven interviews were conducted with employees from different supply chain intermediaries, providing insight in their practices and their contribution to labour standards regulation in fashion factories. Each interviewee mentioned that their ability to contribute highly depends on their retailer’s customer’s demand. The fast fashion industry is highly competitive and there is a main focus on low prices, quick delivery and quality requirements, rather than focusing on responsible production and having safe - and fair working conditions for factory workers. Literature lacks insight in the role of supply chain intermediaries regarding the regulation of labour standards in the fashion supply chain, for which this research aims to fill this literature gap. The regulation of labour standards in the fashion supply chain is considered a key problem and there is a need for regulation. This research aims to describe the regulatory role of intermediaries in the fashion supply chain, possibly allowing for improvements regarding working conditions in fashion factories. Regulation includes implementation -, monitoring - and rule enforcing activities. This research points out imporant factors influencing the regulatory potential of intermediaries in the supply chain. The role of intermediaries is described on the basis of four value-adding activities: knowledge development, information transfer, risk reduction and capability support. The regulatory activities are as well applied to the role that intermediaries have in the fashion supply chain in regulating labour standards. Besides, this research adds important information about improving supply chain practices.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen