Do Factory Audits Improve International Labor Standards? An Examination of Voluntary Corporate Labor Regulations in Global Production Networks


corporate social responsibility, auditing, global production networks, labor


This research examined the effects of voluntary factory audits on labor conditions. Sometimes referred to as corporate social responsibility (CSR) codes of conduct, corporations impose voluntary labor standards coupled with regular auditing to help ensure the protection of workers throughout their global production networks (GPNs). While some believe that auditing factories ensures that CSR codes of conduct are followed and helps private corporations promote higher labor standards, others argue that factory audits have little effect on labor standards at the factory level. Using unique panel data of internal factory audit reports of factories in four Southeast Asian countries between 2003 and 2010, this paper sought to understand whether voluntary GPN audits improve labor standards at the factory level. The results showed that a factory’s number of audits between 2003 and 2010 did not improve factory working conditions significantly and that the local neighborhood in which a factory is located has a greater effect on changes in factory audit scores. These findings suggest that CSR codes of conduct and auditing alone are not sufficient to improve labor standards in GPNs. Rather, joint private-public collaboration is needed to improve labor conditions for workers in the global south.

Original Publication Citation

Sanders, Scott R., Michael R. Cope, and Elizabeth R. Pulsipher1. 2018. “Do Factory Audits Improve International Labor Standards? An examination of voluntary corporate labor regulations in global production networks.” Social Sciences, 7(6): 84

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor