The ‘Factory Manager Dilemma’: Purchasing Practices and Environmental Upgrading in Apparel Global Value Chains

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Economic and environmental upgrading in global value chains are intertwined processes. The existing global value chain literature has so far articulated the relationships between economic and social upgrading but has only recently started to explore the challenges of environmental upgrading from the perspective of suppliers in the Global South. In this article, we examine the ‘factory manager dilemma’ as a way of conceptualising the purchasing practices and environmental upgrading requirements faced by suppliers in their dealings with lead firms in global value chains. Specifically, we analyse the environmental upgrading challenges experienced by Pakistani apparel firms. We conclude that Pakistani apparel suppliers are required both to absorb the consequences of global buyers’ unsustainable purchasing practices and to reduce their own profitability – all in the name of sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)766-789
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online: 18. September 2019


  • Environmental upgrading
  • Global value chains
  • Buyer–supplier relationships
  • Factory manager dilemma
  • Apparel industry
  • Pakistan

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