Business Associations and the Governance of Sustainability Standards in Global Production Networks: The case of the CSC9000T standard in the Chinese apparel sector

  • Corinna Braun-Munzinger

Student thesis: Phd


The Global Production Networks (GPNs) framework has shown how interactions among various types of firm and non-firm actors at different geographic scales are often crucial to improve the design and implementation of social and environmental standards. However, one set of actors that the GPN framework has largely overlooked are business associations. Sectoral expertise, access to member firms and the ability to represent firms towards external standard-setters make local business associations interesting as regulatory intermediaries between member firms and local and global standard setters. Nonetheless, the ways in which such intermediary roles may operate, and how they may build on local collective action within business associations, remain conceptually and empirically understudied. In seeking to contribute to this gap, this thesis addresses the question: What roles do business associations play in the governance of sustainability standards within GPNs? To address this question, the thesis explores the value-added of an analytical approach that integrates concepts from the literature on associational governance and regulatory governance into the GPN framework. It focuses on collective self-regulation and intermediation as two distinct but potentially complementary roles that business associations can take on in the governance of sustainability standards. In the GPN context, intermediary roles can play out towards local and global standard-setters. This analytical framework is applied to a case study of the CSC9000T standard created by the China National Textile and Apparel Council (CNTAC). Empirical data was collected over a 10 months period between December 2014 - September 2015. It includes secondary documents and 58 semi-structured primary interviews with Chinese business associations and firms as well as international actors involved in CSR in China. A congruence analysis is used to examine the extent to which each of the two conceptual roles of self-regulation and intermediation can explain CNTAC's roles in CSC9000T. Findings show that both roles add value to explaining the case study. However, limitations faced in both roles reflect how the association's embeddedness in the overall GPN influences these roles. Overall, the thesis argues that a conceptual lens that views business associations both as collective actors and as regulatory intermediaries may add value to understanding their ability to govern sustainability standards, but needs to be seen in the context of an association's embeddedness in the wider GPN. These findings have implications for considering when, and how, local business associations may be relevant in wider research on sustainability standards in global production.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRudolf R. Sinkovics (Supervisor) & Khalid Nadvi (Supervisor)


  • sustainability standards
  • business associations
  • global production networks

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