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Are UK supermarkets socially responsible? A case study analysis of labour codes of conduct in a global banana supply chain

Robinson, Pamela. 2008. Are UK supermarkets socially responsible? A case study analysis of labour codes of conduct in a global banana supply chain. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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This thesis examines the role of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and voluntary labour initiatives (codes of conduct and standards) with special reference to banana production in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is the third biggest supplier of bananas to the United Kingdom (UK), but market access is determined by the major UK supermarket groups, and the terms and conditions dictated by these powerful actors impact the labour conditions on banana plantations. In this regard the banana supply chain is increasingly viewed as 'buyer-driven' and as such, the theoretical framework employed in the research is based on global commodity chain studies (Gereffi 1994, Gereffi et al. 2005). The thesis draws on interviews and focus groups organised with banana workers and their representatives over a two month period in 2006. However, the banana supply chain is not a simple linear model in terms of control and influence there is a high degree of complexity regarding the social relations within it. The chain includes major transnational producers and trade unions, and an international framework agreement (IFA) is in place on some plantations, and there are also other interested parties - audit groups, NGOs and civil society groups---concerned with labour conditions on plantations. Interviews were conducted with these social actors both prior and following the period of fieldwork in Costa Rica. The thesis also reports on the Second International Banana Conference held in April 2005, a forum for the major players to debate the issues and conditions within the industry. The thesis shows that the leading supermarkets have considerable power over suppliers/producers. However, it is argued that the supermarkets' professed desire to act socially responsibly to those workers employed on plantations is contradicted by the downward pressure exerted on the price of bananas and that this contributes to a downward spiral of labour conditions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
ISBN: 9781303183065
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2018 05:00

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