Public policies for scaling corporate responsibility standards

Jem Bendell (Asia Pacific Centre for Sustainable Enterprise, Griffith Business School, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Anthony Miller (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Geneva, Switzerland)
Katharina Wortmann (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Geneva, Switzerland)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Publication date: 8 November 2011



This paper seeks to provide an overview and context for the emerging field of public policies for scaling voluntary standards, or private regulations, on the social and environmental performance of business and finance, to promote sustainable development; in order to stimulate more innovation and research in this field.


The paper takes the approach of a literature review of texts from intergovernmental and non‐governmental organisations, to develop a synthesis of issues, before literature review from management studies, development studies and international relations, to revise the synthesis and identify policy relevant future research.


Governance at all levels but particularly the international level involves corporations and their stakeholders. Together they have created non‐statutory corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards which now influence significant amounts of international trade and investment, thereby presenting new benefits, risks and challenges for sustainable development. Governments around the world are now innovating public policies on these standards, which can be categorised to inform policy development: governments prepare, prefer, promote and prescribe CSR standards. Therefore, a new dimension to collaborative governance is emerging and would benefit from research and technical assistance. As concepts and practices of regulation and governance are moving beyond state versus non‐state, mandatory versus voluntary approaches, so issues about transparency, accountability and democratic participation remain important for any new manifestation of regulation or governance.


By contextualising public policy innovations on CSR standards within new theories of governance, including “private regulation” and “collaborative governance”, the paper helps to clarify a new agenda for policy making and related research.



Bendell, J., Miller, A. and Wortmann, K. (2011), "Public policies for scaling corporate responsibility standards", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 263-293.

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