Limits of Buyer-driven Governance for Sustainability: Inherent Challenges of Fragmented Supplier Networks

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This article questions retailers’ role as buyers driving production. Exploring a network involving Indian suppliers of UK retailers’ cotton garments, limitations preventing coercive buyer power from controlling production practices are identified. Overall, the dominant system of large-scale fragmented supplier networks connecting raw materials to final products accommodates commercially viable practices causing social or environmental challenges. While some pressures effectively span complex networks, buyers’ practice-related demands do not. Dissecting the ‘drivenness’ concept, this study shows multipolar governance within an industry often considered buyer-driven. Also, it furthers critiques of private governance’s effectiveness, indicating the need for alternative governance frameworks or network structures.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Economic Geography
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)801-828
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Published online: 23 October 2021.


  • Global production networks
  • Sustainability
  • Governance
  • Corporate social responsibility

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