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Bodenheimer, Miriam
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Working Paper Sustainability and Innovation S01/2019
[Introduction] Globalization in the production process of consumer goods has led to the creation of intricate global production networks (GPNs), whose early stages are often characterized by poor working conditions and other social sustainability issues (SSIs). The changes needed to move towards more socially sustainable consumer products are not only complex, but also difficult to implement in highly competitive industries with powerful incumbent actors and often poor institutional conditions in producing countries. The resulting change processes can be conceptualized as emerging sustainability transitions in the sense of the Multi-Level Perspective (MLP), where incumbent actors make up the current regime and innovative alternatives emerge in niches (Geels and Schot 2010). While the MLP has traditionally had a strong focus on technological innovation, sustainability transitions often require a change in behavior instead. To reflect this stronger focus on changes in behaviors, practices and decision-making processes, this paper uses the Model of Behavioral Transitions to Sustainability (BTS), a combined approach of the MLP with the Cyclical Dialectic Issue Lifecycle (C-DILC) model and two behavioral models (Bodenheimer 2018a). This paper is part of a larger series and compares the results of three in-depth case studies of GPNs, two in the garment and one in the smartphone sector, which examine the ongoing transition processes in these industries towards more socially sustainable GPNs from 1990 to 2016.. An in-depth description of the theoretical underpinnings can be found in Bodenheimer (2018a); the smartphone case study is described in detail in Bodenheimer (2018c) and the two garment cases are documented in Bodenheimer (2018b). In this paper, with regard to industry-specific framework conditions, we will treat the two garment sector cases as one, whereas with regard to transition dynamics, we will often analyze the European and US garment sectors separately, alongside the smartphone sector. In the following chapters, we will compare the case studies from the perspective of each of the components of the BTS model. Chapter 2 provides a brief summary of the theoretical background and BTS model. In Chapter 3, we will examine how the dialectic issue lifecycles have developed historically in each of the case studies and whether or not they have exhibited cyclicality thus far. We will pay particular attention to similarities and differences in those factors that moved each sector forward and/or backward between the different C-DILC phases. Next, we will sum up and compare insights regarding consumer and corporate behavior in the case studies in Chapter 4. With a view to consumers, we will place a particular focus on the question of why consumer demand is generally unlikely to play a significant role in moving the transition towards greater social sustainability in GPNs forward, although the degree to which this is true differs between the smartphone and garment sectors. With regard to corporate behavior, we will highlight the key similarities and differences between the two industry sectors, both with regard to the level of progress of the transition in each sector and the difficulties that still remain. Finally, in Chapter 5, we will take on a more macro-level perspective of the behavioral transitions in the case studies by analyzing interactions between each of the three MLP-levels and assessing which type of transition pathway each industry is most likely to follow if the transition is successful in the long-term. Chapter 6 concludes.
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