Distributional justice in Swedish-global value chain partnerships for sustainable textile production : A case study on economic distribution within the Sweden Textile Water Initiative
Sammanfattning: Due to the textile industry’s polluting impact on aquatic environments the Sweden Textile Water Initiative (STWI) was established. This Sida funded collaboration between SIWI (Stockholm International Water Institute), Swedish fashion brands and their suppliers received international recognition for their success in achieving tangible environmental results after implementing sustainability measures at the suppliers. However, the financing from Sida was only for a limited period of time and the projects lost momentum when the money ran out. Moreover, claims have been made that monetary savings which suppliers made from more efficient resource use has been subject to profit theft from the brands by reducing their order prices. Furthermore, the brands genuine desire to achieve sustainability in the supply chain is questioned by modest supplier nominations. Previous research shows problems in value chain management and how both intentional and unintentional actions affect power dynamics and other factors in the value chain. This research contributes to the sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) literature by including a Swedish partnership perspective. In addition, new research is continuously needed in sustainability and textile value chains as conditions in the industry change rapidly (such as increased environmental awareness, and not least the covid-19 pandemic). The purpose of this thesis is to answer the research question; "Is there a pattern of economic benefits for sustainability efforts in the textile supply chain being unfairly distributed between stakeholders in international partnerships?" This is achieved by conducting a case study of the Sweden Textile Water Initiative (STWI), including a supplier survey, semi-structured interviews with brands and supplier representatives, as well as a literature study. The results showed that no coherent definition of "fair" had been established within a STWI context, and although suppliers were the only ones to receive direct financial profits, brands still indicated that this was not necessarily unfair. Furthermore, it was discovered that order quantities had decreased, but that motivations for decrease could be due to a number of reasons; restructuring in business model, changed consumer behavior/demand, and order placement with other suppliers. Regarding the order price, the majority of suppliers considered that these had decreased, while brands unanimously claimed they had increased. Contradictions in the respondents' answers does not necessarily render their experiences untrue, as they rarely have direct financial transactions due to the structure of the value chain. Another result showed that the brands modest number of nominated suppliers was largely due to hesitation from suppliers to join the partnership, as well as brands focusing on strategic placement, and being more oriented towards where the projects will have the largest impact. Finally, the results led to a number of suggestions on how improved partnerships can be achieved. The plethora of factors that affect the complex structure of the industry also leaves many opportunities to explore cause-effect relationships. Further research needs include mapping market-, upstream- and downstream- pressure on suppliers, definitions of justice and risk responsibility, driving forces leading to relocation of production countries and comparisons of environmental legislation related to textile production.
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