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Carl Schroeder

Senior Political Science - Political Economy specialization

Research Interests: Transparency, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Accountability

How I came to the center: I have been working with Lance and the center for the last year and a half or so, basically alternating quarters of independent research credit with quarters where I've worked on my projects in my spare time while keeping in touch with everyone. I became interested in participating in academic research after a labor studies seminar in which I had my first taste of self-directed research. I designed and implemented a study of the coverage of the Washington state public employees strike in the spring of 2001 in five major newspapers in the state. But rather than just another class project, I was actually doing this research for the SEIU, one of the union's that had members striking. It was exciting doing work that could be of use to someone, rather than just an assignment for a grade. After that class, I began looking for other research opportunities. I came across a listing at the UW Undergraduate Research Program website for an undergraduate research opportunity with Lance Bennett and the CCCE. One of the great things about my experience working with Lance and the center has been that my projects have been tailored to my interests. Rather than plugging me into an already existing project, I have been allowed the freedom to develop my own interests. Another great aspect of my affiliation with the center has been the wonderful people I've had the opportunity to meet that I wouldn't have normally. In addition to biweekly meetings with Lance and a group of graduate and undergraduate students, I've worked with and interviewed grassroots economic activists such as Alistair Jackson of the Transparency Center, talked with core activists involved with the Seattle Independent Media Center, and sat in on roundtables with visiting professors.

Center Research Projects: Ethical Standards Regimes Comparison

Project Description: This project grew out of my interest in corporate social responsibility, especially the use of consumer market pressures to achieve that responsibility. In addition to the center, my project is affiliated with the Transparency Center. As the project evolved, with the help of Lance, Alistair, and Michelle, I ended up deciding to focus on ways to compare different standards regimes in areas such as organic foods, sweat-free apparel, and sustainable managed forestry.

I was specifically interested in providing a means for interested parties to objectively compare competing standards regimes along areas they deemed important. I collected standards information for many different organizations involved in these areas. For example, with the ethical apparel regimes, I collected standards from NGO organizations like the Fair Labor Association and the Workers Rights Consortium, as well as private corporate codes of conduct from companies such as Nike, The Gap, and Levi's.

I liked the idea of a side-by-side comparison of the standards because it quickly highlights the differences between competing codes. For instance, on the issue of wages, legal minimum wage may appear to be a strong wage requirement, but if it is compared to other possible requirements such of industry standard wage or living wage, it becomes clear that it is not the strongest requirement.

In fitting with my personal interest in transparency, this project is not designed to make a recommendation as to the best standard but rather to provide a resource with which someone can make an informed opinion based on their own preferences.

In it's current form, this project consists of a set of excel spreadsheets comparing competing regimes on a multitude of criteria (available below). My next phase of the project is to devise an interactive web presentation of this data, that will allow users to generate their own unique comparisons of whichever regimes they want. So someone could choose to compare the FLA, WRC, ETI, and the Nike code of conduct on wages, hours, and compliance reporting. They would select these options and the website would then get that information out of a database and display it in a user-friendly form on a website.

Working Drafts: Organic Transparency Regime Mapping, Apparel Transparency Regime Mapping, Sustainable managed Forestry Regime Mapping

Awards: 2002 Mary Gates Scholar: Undergraduate Research Training Grant. $3000 Support.

Contact Information: carlschr@u.washington.edu