The limits of corporate responsibility standards



I explore the limits of corporate responsibility standards – for example Social Accountability 8000 (SA 8000), the Global Reporting Initiative, the Fair Labor Association workplace code – by looking at these initiatives through Derrida's aporias of justice as set out in ‘Force of Law: The “Mystical Foundation of Authority”’. Based on a discussion of SA 8000, I uncover the unavoidable aporias that are associated with the use of this standard. I contribute to the literature on corporate responsibility standards in general and SA 8000 in particular by showing (a) that attempts to standardise corporate responsibility can only be successful insofar as we recognise that compliance with SA 8000's rules requires a ‘fresh judgement’ every time they are applied, (b) that SA 8000 should not be pushed down the supply chain as such coercion does not require a truly responsible decision by suppliers and eventually leads to moral mediocrity and (c) that the necessarily time-consuming reflections about the singular contexts within which SA 8000 is applied challenge the urgent need for implementing this standard. I discuss the implications of my analysis of SA 8000 for corporate responsibility standards in general.