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Corporate Codes of Conduct and Labour Turnover in Global Apparel Supply Chains

Chunyun Li and Sarosh Kuruvilla

Research on private regulation of labour issues in global supply chains has focused extensively on whether supplier factories comply with the codes of conduct of global companies. Less is known about how such compliance relates to the preferences and behaviours of workers at export factories. This study analyses a unique dataset of factory audits matched with a survey of worker turnover rates from 622 factories in 28 countries supplying a large global apparel retailer. The results show that violations of the retailer’s codes of conduct for suppliers are generally related to turnover, but that workers ‘vote with their feet’ primarily for violations of wages and benefits, relative to violations of other code provisions such as environment protection and safety standards. This ‘means-ends’ decoupling between factory practices and worker preferences implies that global firms need to incorporate the livelihood logic that underlies workers’ turnover decisions while implementing their private regulation programmes.

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