Increasingly business regulation arises from non-state actors in the private sector and civil society, including public-private institutions, NGOs, and business firms. These regulations have become a fact of life for transnational companies, standards-setting groups, and governments as more and more of the norms and standards that govern business emanate from these non-state actors and operate in a dynamic, transnational regulatory space. For example, in forestry there are industry-based certificate systems that interact with NGO-centric regulations set by the Forest Stewardship Council, in additional to individual state regulations.
Scholars have devoted substantial attention to individual transnational business governance initiatives. However, individual initiatives seldom operate in isolation and as these schemes multiply it is important to explore the nature of the interacting governance structures. The Transnational Business Governance Interactions (TBGI) research project addresses this gap in the scholarship by focusing on the nature of business governance interactions as they develop across time and global space.
Focusing on the nexus of business governance interactions leaves numerous questions to be addressed: When do these initiatives cooperate? When do they compete? Do they race one another to the top or to the bottom? Do their institutions and content converge or diverge over time? Why do some initiatives achieve quasi-monopoly status in their fields while others languish in obscurity? Do their interactions reinforce or undermine ecological sustainability, prosperity, innovation, and human rights? And how can policy actors orchestrate these interactions to promote positive outcomes?
Our research initiative sets out to develop and apply a framework for understanding TBGI, bringing together four university partners, a major transnational governance association (ISEAL) and individual scholars from various fields, including law, environmental studies, international relations, political science, public policy, sociology, and studies in business ethics and corporate social responsibility.
Our research emphasizes four overarching questions:
- How do TBGI interact with one another and with state law and regulation?
- How do the forms and dynamics of interaction vary over time and space, and across issue areas, organizational fields, and stages in the regulatory process (e.g. rule making, implementation and enforcement)?
- How do these interactions shape regulatory formations, actions and outcomes?
- How can policy actors steer interactions to promote positive social outcomes?
Through these efforts, we have generated an overarching analytical framework for future TBGI research which guides scholars to make considered and transparent choices in framing their research, and facilitates comparability among scholarly analyses.
Moving forward, we aim to mobilize this knowledge in support of innovative policy solutions that promote social, environmental and economic goals.
This project received financial support from numerous sources, including a Partnership Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.