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Matthew Alford

Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester.

Dr. Matthew AIford is a Senior Lecturer at the Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester. His research interrogates questions of development in the context of globalization, transnational trading networks and labour. More specifically, he focuses on the role of nation states in governing labour, and how public regulations interact with lead-firm driven private codes of conduct and civil society initiatives across geographical scales. Another strand of his research explores labour agency, and the evolving strategies adopted by workers in contesting their conditions in global production networks (GPNs).
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publication
State policies and upgrading in global value chains: A systematic literature review

This paper examines the role of state policymaking in a context of global value chains (GVCs). While the literature acknowledges that states matter in GVCs, there is little understanding of how they matter from a policy perspective. We address this tension between theory and practice by first delineating the state’s facilitator, regulator, producer and buyer roles. We then explore the extent to which corresponding state policies enable or constrain the following policy objectives: GVC participation; value capture; and social and environmental upgrading. We do so via a systematic review of academic GVC literature, combined with analysis of seminal policy publications by International Organizations. Our findings indicate that state policymakers leverage facilitative strategies to achieve GVC participation and enhanced value capture; with regulatory and public procurement mechanisms adopted to address social and environmental goals. Mixed results also emerged, highlighting tensions between policies geared towards economic upgrading on the one hand, and social and environmental upgrading on the other. Finally, we suggest that effective state policies require a multi-scalar appreciation of GVC dynamics, working with multiple and sometimes competing stakeholders to achieve their developmental objectives.

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publication
Southern actors and the governance of labour standards in global production networks: The case of South African fruit and wine

Recent studies highlight the emergence of standards, including multi-stakeholder initiatives developed and applied within the global South where supplier firms are usually based. This trend has created a complex ethical terrain whereby transnational standards flow through global production networks and intersect with domestic initiatives at places of production. The paper complements global production network analysis with the concepts of ‘space of flows’ and ‘space of places’ and insights from relational economic geography, to examine how some multi-stakeholder initiatives in the global South can shape the broader governance of labour standards in global production networks. The following questions are addressed: How is the governance of labour standards in global production networks shaped by dynamic spatial interactions between actors? What role have diverse Southern multi-stakeholder initiatives played in influencing the governance of South African fruit and wine? We draw on research conducted over seven years into two standards in South Africa, the Wine and Agriculture Ethical Trade Association and Sustainability Initiative of South Africa. Our analysis shows that these two Southern-based multi-stakeholder initiatives contributed to shaping the broader governance of labour standards through dynamic non-linear waves of interaction over time, involving both collaborative and contested exchanges between actors across space of flows and places. We further argue that despite the development of multi-stakeholder initiatives by Southern actors, commercial power asymmetries in global production networks limit their ability to promote significant improvements for producers and workers.

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publication
Global value chains, private governance and multiple end-markets: insights from Kenyan leather

This article analyses how the private governance of global value chains (GVCs) varies across multiple end-markets. This is explored through a two-stage mixed-methods analysis of Kenya’s participation in leather value chains serving Europe, China, India and the COMESA region. We first draw on transaction-level customs data to analyse private governance in terms of the stability of buyer–supplier interactions and presence of intermediaries. We then interrogate these results through supplier interviews. Our article highlights the combined role of product specifications and trust in shaping private governance, and heterogeneity of GVCs across the global North and South, as well as within the South. It further questions commonly held assumptions that lower quality products (generally characterising Southern end-markets) are necessarily governed by market-based coordination mechanisms. We therefore challenge links established in the GVC literature between product standards and private governance.

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publication
Multichain strategies and economic upgrading in global value chains: Evidence from Kenyan horticulture

An extensive body of research has examined the prospects for suppliers in the global South to upgrade within global value chains (GVCs) controlled by lead firms from, and oriented towards end-markets in, the global North. However, the expansion of South-South trade has altered the geography of GVCs. Previous studies highlight key differences between North-South value chains (NVCs) and South-South value chains (SVCs). Much less is known about the multichain strategies used by suppliers who participate simultaneously in NVCs and SVCs, and how these affect their prospects for economic upgrading. This article draws on the case of Kenyan horticultural suppliers to explore the implications of multichain strategies for economic upgrading, in terms of value-added tasks (product diversification and product sophistication) and economic returns (unit values). We adopt a mixed-methods approach combining transaction-level customs data for the 2006–2018 period with supplier interviews. We find that suppliers adopting multichain strategies experienced significantly more product diversification and higher economic returns than suppliers operating only in NVCs or SVCs, yet results for product sophistication are insignificant. Our results are robust to the use of multilevel linear regressions (MLRs), propensity score matching (PSM), and two-step system-GMM. The article highlights a critical need for GVC research to account for the multichain strategies of suppliers serving multiple and overlapping value chains, and their implications for economic upgrading.

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