Poor working conditions and industry accidents are pervasive in the garment industry. The present study builds on previous research that attributes poor working conditions to sourcing practices of buyers in an industry that is characterised by strong power asymmetries. Drawing on data in the form of a worker and manager survey conducted by Better Work in Cambodian garment factories, the question of whether sourcing practices have an impact on working conditions is addressed descriptively and through statistical analysis.
While research studying labour standards is mostly based on external factory audits, a new angle is taken by measuring working conditions from a worker’s perspective. A measure for several aspects of working conditions is built from the worker survey and regressed on sourcing practices that are perceived as problematic by factory managers. Acknowledging for limitations in the data, the results nevertheless suggest that several sourcing practices have a deteriorating effect on working conditions. Uncertain orders, changes in order size, rush orders and, especially, changes to technical requirements after production has started, appear to have a negative impact on a range of working conditions. Overall, the paper provides an empirical basis for further research and highlights the impact and, consequently, the responsibility buyers have within the global garment supply chain.