Outsourcing Regulation: Analyzing Nongovernmental Systems of Labor Standards and Monitoring


  • Dara O'Rourke


A range of new nongovernmental systems for advancing labor standards and enforcement have emerged over the last 5 years. This article comparatively assesses these multistakeholder systems of codes of conduct and monitoring, discusses their underlying models of regulation, and proposes a set of criteria for evaluating their effectiveness, including their legitimacy, rigor, accountability, and complementarity. Critical issues are raised about the transparency of existing initiatives, independence of monitors, convergence of standards, and dynamics among nongovernmental regulation, unions, and state enforcement. The article concludes by arguing that with increased transparency, improved technical capacities, and new mechanisms of accountability to workers and consumers, nongovernmental monitoring could complement existing state regulatory systems.