Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

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

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

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 https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/URL6A4.

Code availability

Code replication materials are publicly available on Harvard Dataverse at https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/URL6A4.

References

  1. Wiedmann, T., Lenzen, M., Keyßer, L. T. & Steinberger, J. K. Scientists’ warning on affluence. Nat. Commun. 11, 3107 (2020).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Kolcava, D., Rudolph, L. & Bernauer, T. Voluntary business initiatives can reduce public pressure for regulating firm behaviour abroad. J. Eur. Public Policy 28, 591–614 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Rudolph, L., Kolcava, D. & Bernauer, T. Public demand for extraterritorial environmental and social public goods provision. Br. J. Polit. Sci. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007123422000175 (2022).

  4. Amengual, M. & Bartley, T. Global markets, corporate assurances, and the legitimacy of state intervention: perceptions of distant labor and environmental problems. Am. Sociol. Rev. 87, 383–414 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Keohane, R. O. & Victor, D. G. Cooperation and discord in global climate policy. Nat. Clim. Change 6, 570–575 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Barrett, S. Dikes versus windmills: climate treaties and adaptation. Clim. Change Econ. 11, 2040005 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. van der Ven, H. Beyond Greenwash? Explaining Credibility in Transnational Eco-Labeling (Oxford Univ. Press, 2019).

  8. Cory, J., Lerner, M. & Osgood, I. Supply chain linkages and the extended carbon coalition. Am. J. Polit. Sci. 65, 69–87 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Österblom, H., Bebbington, J., Blasiak, R., Sobkowiak, M. & Folke, C. Transnational corporations, biosphere stewardship, and sustainable futures. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 47, https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-environ-120120-052845 (2022).

  10. Wackernagel, M. et al. The importance of resource security for poverty eradication. Nat. Sustain. 4, 731–738 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Folke, C. et al. Transnational corporations and the challenge of biosphere stewardship. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 3, 1396–1403 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Ruggie, J. G. Multinationals as global institution: power, authority and relative autonomy. Regul. Gov. 12, 317–333 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. LeBaron, G. & Lister, J. The hidden costs of global supply chain solutions. Rev. Int. Polit. Econ. 29, 669–695 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Reid, E. M. & Toffel, M. W. Responding to public and private politics: corporate disclosure of climate change strategies. Strateg. Manage. J. 30, 1157–1178 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Wlezien, C. The public as thermostat: dynamics of preferences for spending. Am. J. Polit. Sci. 39, 981–1000 (1995).

  16. Hager, A. & Hilbig, H. Does public opinion affect political speech? Am. J. Polit. Sci. 64, 921–937 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Wendling, Z., Emerson, J. W., de Sherbinin, A. & Esty, D. C. Environmental Performance Index 2020 (Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy, 2020).

  18. Maestre-Andrés, S., Drews, S., Savin, I. & van den Bergh, J. Carbon tax acceptability with information provision and mixed revenue uses. Nat. Commun. 12, 7017 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Trade Map, Trade Statistics For International Business Development 2001–2020 (International Trade Centre, 2020); https://www.trademap.org

  20. Hainmueller, J., Hopkins, D. & Yamamoto, T. Causal inference in conjoint analysis: understanding multidimensional choices via stated preference experiments. Polit. Anal. 22, 1–30 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Leeper, T. J., Hobolt, S. B. & Tilley, J. Measuring subgroup preferences in conjoint experiments. Polit. Anal. 28, 207–221 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Givoni, M., Macmillen, J., Banister, D. & Feitelson, E. From Policy Measures to Policy Packages. Transp. Rev. 33, 1–20 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. ISSP Research Group. International Social Survey Programme: Environment III-ISSP 2010 (GESIS, 2010); https://doi.org/10.4232/1.13271

  24. Murphy, R. O., Ackermann, K. A. & Handgraaf, M. J. J. Measuring social value orientation. Judgm. Decis. Mak. 6, 771–781 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Whitmarsh, L., Xenias, D. & Jones, C. R. Framing effects on public support for carbon capture and storage. Palgrave Commun. 5, 17 (2019).

  26. Meemken, E.-M. et al. Sustainability standards in global agrifood supply chains. Nat. Food 2, 758–765 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. De Vries, C. E., Hobolt, S. B. & Walter, S. Politicizing international cooperation: the mass public, political entrepreneurs, and political opportunity structures. Int. Organ. 75, 306–332 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Nevett, J. How green politics are changing Europe. BBC News (October 2021).

  29. Grossman, G. M. & Helpman, E. Interest Groups and Trade Policy (Princeton Univ. Press, 2020).

  30. Hagman, W., Erlandsson, A., Dickert, S., Tinghög, G. & Västfjäll, D. The effect of paternalistic alternatives on attitudes toward default nudges. Behav. Public Policy 6, 95–118 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Sunstein, C. R. Ruining popcorn? The welfare effects of information. J. Risk Uncertain. 58, 121–142 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Heyes, A., Kapur, S., Kennedy, P. W., Martin, S. & Maxwell, J. W. But what does it mean? Competition between products carrying alternative green labels when consumers are active acquirers of information. J. Assoc. Environ. Resour. Econ. 7, 243–277 (2020).

    Google Scholar 

  33. Reisch, L. A., Sunstein, C. R. & Kaiser, M. What do people want to know? Information avoidance and food policy implications. Food Policy 102, 102076 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Sunstein, C. R. Too Much Information: Understanding What You Don’t Want to Know (MIT Press, 2020).

  35. LeBaron, G. & Rühmkorf, A. The domestic politics of corporate accountability legislation: struggles over the 2015 UK Modern Slavery Act. Socioecon. Rev. 17, 709–743 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Gardner, T. A. et al. Transparency and sustainability in global commodity supply chains. World Dev. 121, 163–177 (2019).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  37. Cammelli, F., Levy, S. A., Grabs, J., Valentim, J. F. & Garrett, R. D. Effectiveness-equity tradeoffs in enforcing exclusionary supply chain policies: lessons from the Amazonian cattle sector. J. Clean. Prod. 332, 130031 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Cornesse, C. et al. A review of conceptual approaches and empirical evidence on probability and nonprobability sample survey research. J. Surv. Stat. Methodol. 8, 4–36 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Clifford, S., Sheagley, G. & Piston, S. Increasing precision without altering treatment effects: repeated measures designs in survey experiments. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 115, 1048–1065 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Bansak, K., Hainmueller, J., Hopkins, D. J. & Yamamoto, T. in Advances in Experimental Political Science (eds Green, D. P. & Druckman, J. N.) 19–41 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2021).

  41. Beiser-McGrath, L. F. & Bernauer, T. Could revenue recycling make effective carbon taxation politically feasible? Sci. Adv. 5, eaax3323 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Haufler, V. Disclosure as governance: the extractive industries transparency initiative and resource management in the developing world. Glob. Environ. Polit. 10, 53–73 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Héritier, A. & Eckert, S. New modes of governance in the shadow of hierarchy: self-regulation by industry in Europe. J. Public Policy 28, 113–138 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Malhotra, N., Monin, B. & Tomz, M. Does private regulation preempt public regulation? Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 113, 19–37 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. McDonnell, M.-H., King, B. G. & Soule, S. A. A dynamic process model of private politics: activist targeting and corporate receptivity to social challenges. Am. Sociol. Rev. 80, 654–678 (2015).

  46. Kinderman, D. Time for a reality check: is business willing to support a smart mix of complementary regulation in private governance? Policy Soc. 35, 29–42 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Holgado-Tello, F. P., Chacón-Moscoso, S., Barbero-García, I. & Vila-Abad, E. Polychoric versus Pearson correlations in exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis of ordinal variables. Qual. Quant. 44, 153–166 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Russell, D. W. In search of underlying dimensions: the use (and abuse) of factor analysis in personality and social psychology bulletin. Personal. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 28, 1629–1646 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Harbaugh, R., Maxwell, J. W. & Roussillon, B. Label confusion: the Groucho effect of uncertain standards. Manage. Sci. 57, 1512–1527 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

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’.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

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.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Thomas Bernauer.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Peer review

Peer review information

Nature Sustainability thanks Joerg S. Hofstetter, Nicolas Jager and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–5 and Tables 1–12.

Reporting Summary.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kolcava, D., Smith, E.K. & Bernauer, T. Cross-national public acceptance of sustainable global supply chain policy instruments. Nat Sustain 6, 69–80 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-022-00984-8

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-022-00984-8

This article is cited by

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing