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24 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 147 (2017)


While some academics argue that enforcing voluntary corporate codes of conduct with private law backed sanctions can improve the working conditions of marginalized workers in the global supply chain, there are various risks associated with this "legalization" process. Relying on evidence from the fields of sociology, psychology, and evolutionary anthropology, this contribution will discuss how external incentives like threats of legal sanctions can actually be detrimental to the intrinsic motivations of companies that want to be socially responsible. This paper will also analyze how the crowding out effect and the spillover effect that come with legalizing otherwise voluntary norms could lead to a series of unintended and harmful consequences. In light of these realizations, this paper will caution against taking codes of conduct "too seriously" and propose that rather than focusing on legal sanctions to threaten companies into compliance, a more facilitative approach based on collaboration, mutual respect, and social norms could better serve to improve the working conditions of laborers in the bottom echelons of our supply chain.