The Hidden Costs of Global Supply Chain Solutions



Review of International Political Economy | Genevieve LeBaron & Jane Lister

Within the international political economy (IPE) literature on global supply chains, there is growing debate about the effectiveness of private global supply chain solutions to address social and environmental problems. Most scholarship takes supply chain solutions at face value, investigating the circumstances under which they are effective, lacking, and how effectiveness could be incrementally improved. These studies have helpfully investigated operational and procedural issues associated with private governance and relationships between stakeholders in standard-setting processes. But the literature often loses sight of broader and more fundamental questions about whether or not private governance initiatives are actually working to solve the problems they’ve been established to address, like pollution, modern slavery, and global North and South inequalities. In this introduction to the Review of International Political Economy special issue on the hidden costs of global supply chains, we analyse key trends in the effectiveness of private governance solutions, drawing on our literature review of 290 academic journal articles and contributions within this collection. We argue that not only are global supply chain solutions falling short when it comes to many of the indicators that matter most, but they come with hidden costs – including unintended consequences, perverse effects, and unacknowledged impacts.

The hidden costs of global supply chain solutions

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