This is part two of our conversation with Professor Raymond Robertson. Raymond is the Helen and Roy Ryu Chair in Economics and Government within the Department of International Affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service. He’s the Director of the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy, Texas A&M University. He is a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany, and a senior research fellow at the Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center.
In this episode, Raymond poses the question: are workers and factory managers aligned on their priorities? When it comes to social compliance, do they agree about what’s most important. This leads the two of us to share some anecdotes about our own experiences, and to some much more fundamental questions: what kinds of assumptions do we, as sustainability advocates, make about what workers want? Are those assumptions safe to make? Are they universally applicable? And if not, what does this mean for social compliance audits? Is data from social compliance audits a reasonable proxy for improved worker well-being? And if we agree that social audits are a necessary but not sufficient condition, what’s next?
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Our episodes this week are thanks to our collaboration with the GIZ FABRIC. The FABRIC project is commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and supports the Asian textile industry in its transformation towards fair production for people and the environment.
Raymond was a speaker on the third edition of GIZ FABRIC’s online seminar series called “Getting Through the Crisis Together: Asian Dialogues on Sustainability in the Textile and Garment Industry.”
Read research Professor Robertson has co-authored: Do Factory Managers Know What Workers Want?
There’s increasing alignment around the idea that social compliance audits haven’t delivered for workers. The New Conversations Project put forward several theories as to why this is (and this latest April publication goes into more details on the opacity theory).
Photo by Soroush Zargar