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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The ‘Green Shadow’ : paradox of increasing green practices and stagnant labour conditions Islam, Saima


The adoption of ‘green practices’ has gained momentum in the global supply chains, but in comparison there has been little improvement in terms of labour conditions and wages. This study explores why labour issues have made minimal progress while environmental regulations are gaining traction. Why do low wages and poor labour standards persist, while the adoption of green norms such as recycling, and energy efficiency has increased in global supply chains? To address these questions, I formulate my argument in two parts using the lens of ideas, interest and institutions: firstly, I argue that the global climate and environmental governance architecture has become more advanced and restrictive than the global labour governance architecture, generating push forces on states and direct pull forces on nonstate actors such as multinational corporations to voluntarily commit and adopt greener practices. Meanwhile, the labour governance architecture's ineffectiveness in restricting MNCs or persuading them to voluntarily commit to better working conditions has resulted in slower overall progress in advancing labour rights. Secondly, I argue that the outcome of this governance asymmetry between labour and environmental governance casts a “Green Shadow’ over labour conditions where MNCs and states disproportionately focus on greening the supply chains while sidelining labour issues in the process. Using the empirical case study of apparel or ready-made garments industry in Bangladesh, I find that there are primarily two kinds of governance influence that ‘push’ the state to alter local practices: directly setting conditions on the producing firms and influencing the domestic policies. While ‘pull’ MNCs and businesses to limit their ecological footprint. I argue that the climate governance architecture has managed to incorporate environmental norms into domestic decisions and preferences by engaging the state itself and through MNCs.

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