Regulating Responsibility? Transnational Corporations, Human Rights and Global Production Chains

Kollman SocSci Corporate responsibility - shortlisted 2018/19

Keywords: transnational corporations,human rights, modern slavery, corporate social responsibility, accountability

Project Description - Transnational corporations (TNC) are under pressure to eradicate gross human rights violations such as forced labour in their global supply chains. Intergovernmental organizations and transnational NGOs have encouraged firms to internalize responsibility for their human rights impacts by creating voluntary multi-stakeholder codes of conduct such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  Recently states in several countries have incorporated respect for the UN Guiding Principles into law and implemented legislation that requires TNCs to disclose how they combat slavery and human rights violations in their supply chains.  Although mandatory, this hybrid regulation relies on firms to set meaningful targets, develop effective auditing procedures and be transparent about violations.  It remains unclear whether, and under what conditions, such regulation leads TNCs to better manage their supply chains and take greater responsibility for their human rights impacts. This interdisciplinary project, which draws on international relations, accounting and business studies, will use a mixed method design.  The research will combine quantitative analysis of TNC disclosures and qualitative case studies of firms operating in high-risk sectors (e.g. textiles) and countries (e.g. Bangladesh, Kenya) to examine how firms subject to hybrid regulation define their human rights obligations and translate these responsibilities into concrete accountability practices.

Project team - The project will be co-supervised by Kelly Kollman (Politics), John McKernan (Accounting and Finance) and Alvise Favotto (Accounting and Finance).  All three supervisors conduct research at the interface of business and politics and have an established reputation for doing work on transnational corporations and human rights.  Kelly Kollman’s research examines the political conditions under which transnational corporations engage with global norms of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and human rights issues. John McKernan’s work engages on a theoretical level with issues in accountability for human rights and the tensions that exist between corporate accountability and responsibility.  Alvise Favotto has used both quantitative and qualitative methods to analyse how management control systems are used in supply chain relations particularly with respect to labour rights protection.

Research environment - The successful applicant will be located in the Subject of Politics as well as embedded in the PhD programme in Accounting and Finance within the Adam Smith Business School.  They will join a vibrant PhD community in Politics that brings together over twenty researchers from more than ten countries.  Doctoral students are given shared office space and state-of-the-art IT and computing facilities.  They will also undertake Core Research Training in both qualitative and quantitative methods through the College of Social Sciences’ Graduate School Postgraduate Research Training Programme.All PhD students in Politics are active members of Subject’s research clusters and many benefit from affiliation to specific research centres or networks, including the Glasgow Human Rights Network. Doctoral researchers are encouraged to present their work in a variety of settings, including dedicated sessions in the Politics seminar series, the research clusters and the PhD-led seminar series. The candidate would also have the opportunity to participate in relevant research clusters in Accounting and Finance.

Candidate specification - This studentship is open to candidates of any nationality – UK, EU or International.

Applicants should demonstrate the following:

  • Possession of a first class Honours and/or a good MSc degree in Politics, International Relations, Accounting, Business Studies, Law or equivalent
  • Practical experience working in the areas of corporate social responsibility, the accounting profession or the human rights sector is desirable but not essential
  • International experience especially in South Asia or sub-Saharan Africa is also desirable but not required
  • Candidates should have a basic background in social science methods (qualitative and/or statistics)

Application process - In the first instance, prospective applicants should contact the project’s lead supervisor, Kelly Kollman,, to discuss their interest in the project and their eligibility.

Applicants may submit applications, via email to the Lead Supervisor, up until the application deadline of 12 noon, Friday 12 January 2018.

The following documentation will be required from applicants if they are invited to submit a full application:

  • LKAS Interdisciplinary Scholarships Application Form
  • 2 references in support of your application. (The references relevant to the application for admission to Glasgow for PhD study may be submitted to this process – they do not need to be tailored to this process.)
  • Degree transcripts in English (Undergraduate and Masters, if relevant)
  • Candidates whose first language is not English must show evidence of appropriate competence in English in the form of an IELTS certificate or similar.