Social Sustainability and Cost Competitiveness – beyond ‘winwins’? A Case Study of Facilitation-based Productivity Intervention in the Pakistani Garment Industry
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- Master Thesis 
This thesis explores how a facilitation-based productivity intervention created by the International Labour Organization (ILO) might play a role in handling tensions between demands for social and environmental sustainability and cost competitiveness. This intervention is called Factory Improvement Toolset (FIT), and ILO is currently piloting FIT in the Pakistani garment industry. The purpose of this pilot is to improve productivity and working conditions by upgrading production systems and factory practices through a facilitation-based approach. This study finds that codes of conduct and in-factory audits are ineffective tools to overcome tensions, whereas facilitation-based productivity interventions have the potential to assist factories in bringing attention to economic and social concerns simultaneously, and through this handle tensions. Drawing on a longitudinal, mixed-method case study, I present an empirical model which illustrates how the facilitation-based productivity intervention FIT impacts employee engagement and blurs boundaries between hierarchical levels in the factory. The model highlights three main elements of facilitation that are important for successful results: ensuring psychological safety, having context-adapted material, and using an activitybased approach, while also considering potential barriers to success. The FIT provides a platform for the factories to increase productivity and improve working conditions through simple and non-costly initiatives deriving from workers’ first-hand knowledge about factory processes. Consequently, this study provides empirical evidence that the use of facilitation has considerable advantages in handling tensions between social sustainability and cost competitiveness that have not yet been recognized within the current literature. My findings suggest that international brands should re-evaluate their adherence to code of conducts and audits, moving past the search for so-called ‘win-win’ solutions aiming to reconcile social and economic goals by bypassing tensions. Rather, brands can benefit from supporting the rollout of facilitation-based productivity interventions and establishing platforms for the exploration and handling of tensions within the factories. This study also has practical implications for managers of manufacturing firms, as well as development agencies professionals, as it proposes a facilitation-based productivity intervention as a new strategy for the development of supplier units and improving the working environment.