This paper provides an in-depth analysis of contributions to a Special Issue on global supply chain regulations covering human rights and environmental impacts. As demands for “ethical trade” have become more prevalent in the Global North, foreign corporate accountability is increasingly seen as a key to enforcing labor rights and environmental protection in the upstream part of global supply chains. Our paper examines howdivergent interests, jurisdictional competencies, and regulatory competition mediate, and sometimes compromise, the application of Northern supply chain laws to targeted industries and governments in the Global South.
We identify key findings regarding: the formative role of civil society groups from the Global North in due diligence rule-making while similar groups in the Global South remain largely absent from the policy formation process; the institutional complementarities between political-economic contexts of due diligence enforcement; and the failure of mandatory due diligence to deliver effective environmental accountability for foreign corporate practices. We argue for a “decolonizing turn,” that foregrounds the question of agency in producing states, to provide a fuller epistemological grasp of global supply chain relationships with negative human rights and environmental impacts.