The ‘factory manager dilemma’: Purchasing practices and environmental upgrading in apparel global value chains

Mahwish J Khan, Stefano Ponte, Peter Lund-Thomsen
DOI number
#Environment and climate change
#Sustainability standards
#Corporate responsibility and lead firms

Economic and environmental upgrading in global value chains are intertwined processes. The existing global value chain literature has so far articulated the relationships between economic and social upgrading but has only recently started to explore the challenges of environmental upgrading from the perspective of suppliers in the Global South. In this article, we examine the ‘factory manager dilemma’ as a way of conceptualizing the purchasing practices and environmental upgrading requirements faced by suppliers in their dealings with lead firms in global value chains. Specifically, we analyze the environmental upgrading challenges experienced by Pakistani apparel firms. We conclude that Pakistani apparel suppliers are required both to absorb the consequences of global buyers’ unsustainable purchasing practices and to reduce their own profitability – all in the name of sustainability.


Stefano Ponte

Copenhagen Business School

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