Social responsibility scandals and trade

Pamina Koenig, Sandra Poncet
DOI number
#Trade and FDI
#East Asia and Pacific
#Corporate responsibility and lead firms

This paper studies the effect of social responsibility scandals on the imports of consumer products, by focusing on an event which generated massive consumer mobilization against neglecting firms, namely the collapse of the Rana Plaza building affecting the textile industry in Bangladesh. We investigate the import repercussions of this major shock in the perceived quality of clothing producers sourcing in Bangladesh. In line with the well-documented home bias in trade and home-country media slant, we assume that consumers’ reaction will be stronger when domestic firms are named and shamed. Our empirical strategy uses a difference-in-difference approach that compares imports from Bangladesh of countries according to whether some of their companies were directly associated with the collapse of the Rana Plaza. Our results are consistent with demand being sensitive to social responsibility scandals. While aggregate imports from Bangladesh continue to increase during the whole period (2010–2016), there is a marked disruption that affects countries whose brands were named and shamed by activists and the media after the disaster. In addition, the decline in imports is all the greater as the number of NGO campaigns on the misbehavior of national textile retailers is high.

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