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Subpolitics and sustainability reporting boundaries. The case of working conditions in global supply chains

Subpolitics and sustainability reporting boundaries. The case of working conditions in global... This paper explores the subpolitical role and main characteristics of a specific accounting technique, sustainability reporting boundaries. Its focus is on how the sett2ing of sustainability reporting boundaries affects the definition and distribution of social risks along the supply chain, particularly the risks related to working condition and human rights.Design/methodology/approachThe paper draws on Beck's (1986) exploration of the ways in which techno-economic spheres offer opportunities for the politicisation of new areas. It is argued that the sphere of sustainability reporting offers that opportunity for the politicisation of supply chains. Using the case of Inditex, the historical context of initiatives relating to the ready-made garment (RMG) industry at global, European and industry level as well as media coverage on the entity are analysed; this is correlated with the analysis of boundary setting in relation to sustainability reports, focusing specifically on working conditions.FindingsThe analysis suggests that accounting technologies that set contested boundaries are subpolitical, that is, defined outside traditional political processes. The paper finds that the way social risks are framed along the supply chain renders them invisible and impersonal and that the framing of these risks becomes endless as they are contested by different groups of experts. Setting sustainability reporting boundaries has subpolitical properties in producing and framing those risks, whilst is simultaneously limited by the inherent politicisation of such an exercise. The questionable legitimacy of sustainability reporting boundaries calls for the construction not only of discursive justifications but also of new possibilities for political participation.Research limitations/implicationsThe analysis is limited to working conditions along one organisation's supply chain.Originality/valueThe contribution of this paper is threefold: (1) It studies in-depth how working conditions in global supply chains are portrayed in sustainability reports. (2) It answers the call to study accounting technologies themselves, in this case sustainability reporting boundaries. (3) It extends Beck's work on global ecological dangers to working conditions in global supply chains to explore how sustainability reporting boundaries are subpolitically involved in the definition and distribution of social risks along the supply chain. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal Emerald Publishing

Subpolitics and sustainability reporting boundaries. The case of working conditions in global supply chains

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
© Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN
0951-3574
DOI
10.1108/aaaj-09-2019-4167
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This paper explores the subpolitical role and main characteristics of a specific accounting technique, sustainability reporting boundaries. Its focus is on how the sett2ing of sustainability reporting boundaries affects the definition and distribution of social risks along the supply chain, particularly the risks related to working condition and human rights.Design/methodology/approachThe paper draws on Beck's (1986) exploration of the ways in which techno-economic spheres offer opportunities for the politicisation of new areas. It is argued that the sphere of sustainability reporting offers that opportunity for the politicisation of supply chains. Using the case of Inditex, the historical context of initiatives relating to the ready-made garment (RMG) industry at global, European and industry level as well as media coverage on the entity are analysed; this is correlated with the analysis of boundary setting in relation to sustainability reports, focusing specifically on working conditions.FindingsThe analysis suggests that accounting technologies that set contested boundaries are subpolitical, that is, defined outside traditional political processes. The paper finds that the way social risks are framed along the supply chain renders them invisible and impersonal and that the framing of these risks becomes endless as they are contested by different groups of experts. Setting sustainability reporting boundaries has subpolitical properties in producing and framing those risks, whilst is simultaneously limited by the inherent politicisation of such an exercise. The questionable legitimacy of sustainability reporting boundaries calls for the construction not only of discursive justifications but also of new possibilities for political participation.Research limitations/implicationsThe analysis is limited to working conditions along one organisation's supply chain.Originality/valueThe contribution of this paper is threefold: (1) It studies in-depth how working conditions in global supply chains are portrayed in sustainability reports. (2) It answers the call to study accounting technologies themselves, in this case sustainability reporting boundaries. (3) It extends Beck's work on global ecological dangers to working conditions in global supply chains to explore how sustainability reporting boundaries are subpolitically involved in the definition and distribution of social risks along the supply chain.

Journal

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability JournalEmerald Publishing

Published: Oct 20, 2020

Keywords: Global supply chains; Inditex; Sustainability reporting boundaries; Subpolitics; Working conditions; Ready-made garment industry

References