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Cross-national public acceptance of sustainable global supply chain policy instruments


Despite increasing their consumption footprints, high-income countries have improved domestic environmental and labour conditions. This incongruity is enabled by international trade, dissociating consumption benefits from adverse production impacts. However, political debates on new regulation to make environmental and labour practices more sustainable throughout companies’ global supply chains have emerged in the Global North. While shifting public sentiment towards regulating global business practices could place sustainability on the policy agenda forefront, citizen support for such policies remains under-identified. Here we explore dimensions of citizen support for global supply chain regulations via survey-embedded experiments. We find that citizens prefer strong reporting requirements and enforcement capabilities across the 12 largest OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) importing countries (N = 24,003). Further, such policy preferences are driven by environmental attitudes and political ideology, and are robust against pro-/anti-market informational manipulation. These results suggest substantial, cross-national public opinion mandates for policy interventions to make global supply chains more transparent. From a sustainability perspective, this is an a priori encouraging finding as it implies that over the last decade, public opinion on this emerging policy topic has matured. Consequently, political actors have an incentive to situate the subject prominently on their policy programmes.

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Fig. 1: Support for global sustainable supply chain policies.
Fig. 2: Marginal means of supply chain policy support by country.
Fig. 3: Marginal means of supply chain policy packages.
Fig. 4: Marginal means of supply chain policy support by subgroups.
Fig. 5: Marginal means of cost perceptions by supply chain policy package stringency.
Fig. 6: Marginal means of supply chain policy by informational treatment.

Data availability

Data replication materials are publicly available on Harvard Dataverse at

Code availability

Code replication materials are publicly available on Harvard Dataverse at


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We thank J. Bognar, M. Brander, G. Brückmann, J. Freihardt, S. Gomm, M. Huss, V. Koubi, F. Lichtin, D. Presberger, F. Quoss and S. Rhein for valuable feedback on the research design and the survey instrument. S. Amberg provided valuable research assistance. A. Uji, D. H. Shin, J. Schuur, M. M. Munoz, P. Tromp and B. Clément helped us with the survey translations. F. Genovese, M. Lerner and seminar audiences at the London School of Economics and Political Science as well as participants of the European Political Science Association Conference, Environmental Politics and Governance Conference, International Studies Association Conference, and the Swiss Political Science Association Conference provided helpful comments on draft versions. This research was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) within the framework of the National Research Programme ‘Sustainable Economy: resource-friendly, future-oriented, innovative’ (NRP 73 Grant: 407340−172363, T.B.) and by SNSF grant 100017−17590722 (T.B.) ‘Environmental Burden-Shifting Through International Trade: Driving Forces and Policy Implications’.

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D.K. and E.K.S. collected the data, developed and analysed the results, and co-wrote the manuscript. D.K., E.K.S. and T.B. contributed to the research design, drafting and revising of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Thomas Bernauer.

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Kolcava, D., Smith, E.K. & Bernauer, T. Cross-national public acceptance of sustainable global supply chain policy instruments. Nat Sustain 6, 69–80 (2023).

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