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A Study of Chinese Consumer Good Manufacturer's Response to Big Brand Supply Chain Sustainability
Jane Lister, Genevieve LeBaron
In recent years, big brand companies have competed to adopt far-reaching sustainability goals. They are now racing to drive these commitments into their core operations as well as through their global supply chains. This project analyzes the impact of this accelerating trend on the environmental and social practices of consumer goods manufacturers in China.
 The research objectives are three-fold:
  • To understand the extent to which brand companies are 'walking the talk' in terms of implementing global supply chain sustainability goals. What benchmarks are they setting and how are they guiding and ensuring supplier compliance?
  • To determine how manufacturers in China are balancing rising brand company sustainability demands with contractual requirements for low-priced production. Is labour paying the price for environmental improvements?
  • To evaluate how local institutional and infrastructure conditions (e.g. state regulations, energy supply constraints, transport logistics, etc.) are shaping manufacturer sustainability response. What are the critical barriers to corporate sustainability improvements and labour compliance?

Project Approach & Timing

The research is focused within the Pearl River Delta area of Guangdong province (often referred to as the 'world's factory'). Data will be gathered through an interview survey with consumer goods suppliers and buyers during week 2 at the Canton Fair in Guangzhou, April 23-27, 2012. This is the largest trade fair in China. 200,000 buyers from over 200 countries, and manufacturers from across China attend. The research will also include interviews with trade officials in Guangzhou, and factory tours in neighbouring Shenzhen (the fastest growing and largest migrant city in China). Empirical data from interviews will be evaluated along with trade data and sustainability metrics collected from companies. Study results will be written up and shared with interviewees as requested prior to publishing.

Project Management

Dr. Jane Lister will serve as the project director. She will lead the research with the support of co-investigator, Dr. Genevieve LeBaron. Both are Research Fellows at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia (bios attached). Dr. Peter Dauvergne, Director of the Liu Institute and Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Politics will act as advisor to the project. The research represents a component phase of Dr. Dauvergne's overall multi-year global politics of eco-business project supported by a Canadian government Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grant. It is also part of the Liu Institute's Global Supply Chain Sustainability Governance Roundtable Initiative directed by Dr. Jane Lister.

Any questions or comments with respect to this research project can be addressed directly to Jane at:

Dr. Jane Lister
Research Fellow
Liu Institute for Global Issues
University of British Columbia
6476 NW Marine Drive
Vancouver, BC, CANADA, V6T 1Z2
+1 (604) 822-8061
Jane.lister@ubc.ca

Research Team Bios

Project Director: Dr. Jane Lister, MBA, PhD

Jane is a Research Fellow at the Liu Institute for Global Issues. Her work addresses the governance implications of voluntary corporate sustainability initiatives. Her educational background is in economics and environmental studies (Honours BA, Trinity College, University of Toronto, 1987), business administration (MBA, Sauder School, UBC, 1995) and resource management (PhD, UBC, 2009).

She has over twenty years experience in the sustainability field. Prior to her doctoral degree, she was with the Global Risk Management practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers where she assisted companies across North America design, implement and audit environmental policies and programs. Prior to her MBA, she was an environmental policy analyst with the Ontario provincial government.

Her work on the policy implications of corporate social responsibility is featured in several academic peer-reviewed articles as well as in her recent books: Timber (Polity Press, 2011; co-authored with Peter Dauvergne), and Corporate Social Responsibility and the State (UBC Press, 2011). Her research is currently focused on corporate sustainability, global supply chains, and the global environmental politics of ecoconsumerism. Her next book Eco-business (co-authored with Peter Dauvergne) forthcoming with MIT Press in 2012, addresses the rise and global governance implications of brand company sustainability.

Co-investigator: Dr. Genevieve LeBaron, PhD

Genevieve is a Research Fellow at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia and Adjunct Research Professor at the Morgan Center for Labour Studies, Simon Fraser University. Her current research focuses on evolving labour practices and codes of conduct in global socially responsible supply chains, with an emphasis on new and expanding markets in China and India.

Her PhD and M.A. are from the Department of Political Science at York University (Toronto). Her B.A. (Honors) was at the Evergreen State College (Olympia, WA USA).

She has been Research Director of the Caux Forum for Human Security (Geneva) and Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors for Initiatives of Change Canada, an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (Toronto). She was Conference Director for the Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy Conference in Caux, Switzerland, convening an international group of 500 business leaders, trade unionists, experts and decision markers working to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of values in economic life. She is the author of a number of articles in international political economy.

Project Advisor: Dr. Peter Dauvergne, PhD

Peter Dauvergne is the director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues. He is a professor of Political Science at UBC and is a Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Politics.

Peter is an internationally recognized political scientist and award-winning author who founded the highly regarded and cited journal Global Environmental Politics. He has published 10 books and over 50 articles.

His research focuses on the politics of global environmental change, including current projects on sustainable consumption, corporate social responsibility, and global supply chain sustainability governance.

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