Social Upgrading and Cooperative Corporate Social Responsibility in Global Value Chains: The Case of Fairphone in China

Björn Jindra, Faith Hatani, Thomas Steger, Johannes Hiemer

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In this article, we explore how a lead firm's strategy for corporate social responsibility influences the social upgrading of a supplier in a global value chain. Based on a single case study approach, we investigate the interaction between Dutch smartphone producer Fairphone and its Chinese supplier Guohong. On the one hand, the case illustrates how a cooperative approach to corporate social responsibility can lead to progress in suppliers' social upgrading. In particular, we highlight the role of a so‐called workers' welfare fund as a mechanism not only for improving measurable labour standards but also for enabling rights. On the other hand, the case demonstrates how the limited production and technological capabilities of the suppliers, a competitive market environment and lead firms' limited strategic access to the supply chain might constrain the extent of social upgrading through a cooperative approach towards corporate social responsibility in a global value chain.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Networks: A Journal of Transnational Affairs
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)371-393
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • China
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Fairphone
  • Global value chain
  • Governance
  • Social upgrading

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