When Sustainability Certifications Mandate Living Wages: Fair Washing or Fair Trade?

What are the conditions under which Voluntary Sustainability Certifications move beyond rhetorical commitments and work for meaningful social change?

Project Abstract

Voluntary Sustainability Certifications (VSCs) aim to improve the ways in which globalized supply chains and multinational corporations impact society and the environment. In the last six years there has been an increase in the number of VSC standards pertaining to a living wage (LW). Through a comparative study of standards mandated by member organizations of the Global Living Wage Coalition (GLWC), a coalition formed to promote living wages globally, this research sought to determine how the implementation of the LW concept varies, why it varies, and what the obstacles are to implementing LW standards. Primary roles as the research assistant included background research on the living wage movement and assisting during the interview process- taking notes, transcribing interviews, and analyzing a given organizations position on LW. I also assisted Dr. Bennett in debriefing interviews for key concepts, organizing data for analysis, and hypothesizing issues and trends regarding the difficulty of adopting living wages. We hope our research furthers the discussion on how VSCs can provide impactful changes to the lives of workers and their families.

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