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Crossvergence of socially (ir)responsible employment practices in supplier firms

Britta Holzberg (Institute of Development Research and Development Policy, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany and International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Hague, The Netherlands)

Critical Perspectives on International Business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Article publication date: 4 October 2019

Issue publication date: 22 May 2020




The purpose of this paper is to introduce the notion of crossvergence from international human resource management (IHRM) as a conceptual lens for understanding and analyzing the formation of socially (ir)responsible employment practices in supplier firms in global production networks (GPNs). The crossvergence perspective can particularly contribute to understanding how the agency of suppliers is influenced by the interaction of global–local dynamics.


The paper illustrates how the formation of socially (ir)responsible employment practices can be understood as a process of crossvergence. Subsequently, it reviews and structures insights from GPN and IHRM literature to detail the process.


The paper underscores the complicated role of suppliers in ensuring decent work in GPNs. Suppliers face a multitude of global and local interacting, and partially conflicting, demands. They process these demands as active agents and need to develop suitable employment practices in response.


The paper supports the nascent discourse on supplier agency in forming socially responsible employment practices. It connects different streams of literature to illuminate the perspective of suppliers, introduces IHRM insights to the debate and offers conceptual guidance for analyzing interacting global and local pressures on suppliers.



The author developed this paper in the course of the joint PhD program of the Institute of Development Research and Development Policy (IEE, Ruhr University Bochum) and the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS, Erasmus University Rotterdam).

The author thanks Peter Knorringa and Uta Wilkens for their insightful comments on earlier drafts of this paper and also thanks the editor James Faulconbridge for his highly valuable feedback. Any shortcomings of the paper remain the author’s own.


Holzberg, B. (2020), "Crossvergence of socially (ir)responsible employment practices in supplier firms", Critical Perspectives on International Business, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 305-324.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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