Conceptualizing the Regulator-Buyer State in the European Union for the Exercise of Socially Responsible Public Procurement in Global Production Networks

GALE RAJ-REICHERT, CORNELIA STARITZ and LEONHARD PLANK
2022
#Corporate responsibility and lead firms

Labour rights violations and poor working conditions are rife in global production networks (GPNs). Until now research on labour governance in GPNs has been dominated by private measures. We ignite discussions on the role of the state in governing labour conditions in GPNs by focusing on a less well-known public governance instrument – socially responsible public procurement (SRPP). SRPP is the inclusion of social criteria on working conditions in public procurement contracts. Revised European Union (EU) directives on public procurement widened the space to exercise SRPP including for outsourced and offshored production. Understanding how states can exercise SRPP as a labour governance instrument requires a conceptualization of state powers. We present a conceptualization of the hybrid regulator-buyer state and show that an effective SRPP approach requires both strong regulator powers, differentiated as legislative, institutional, judicial and discursive, and buyer power which depend on purchasing volumes and supplier and market characteristics.

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