Public–private partnership in labor standards governance: Better factories Cambodia

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Abstract

The growth of outsourcing in apparel manufacturing has raised concerns about increasingly exploitative working conditions. Given the failure of existing enforcement mechanisms, we need to look to alternate institutional structures to address the global challenge of declining labor standards. This paper examines the case of Better Factories Cambodia (BFC), a public–private partnership (PPP) that has effectively protected workers' rights through collaboration between the Government of Cambodia, the International Labour Organization, and multi-national apparel firms. Prior to the BFC, none of these actors was able to independently draw up and enforce stronger standards through effective monitoring. In collaboration, however, this mix of private, state, and inter-governmental organizations have been able to achieve the twin goals of stronger labor protections and effective enforcement by building on each partner's distinct organizational strengths. While this case may have broader relevance, its successes are tempered by dependence on a single industry and on buyers' preferences for inspected production sites. Further, similar partnerships may not emerge without strong state intervention to demonstrate their positive outcomes. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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