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Cross-sector collaboration and nonprofit boundary work for female workers in developing countries: evidence from Bangladesh

Enrico Fontana (Department of Management, Sasin School of Management, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand and Mistra Centre for Sustainable Markets, Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm, Sweden)
Mark Heuer (Department of Management and Marketing, Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, USA)
Lisa Koep (Faculty of Business and Economics, Chair of Business Administration, esp. Sustainability Management and Environmental Accounting, Technische Universitat Dresden, Dresden, Germany)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 13 May 2021

Issue publication date: 7 October 2021




The purpose of this paper is to shed new light on the way the cross-sector collaboration (CSC) process can foster gender-focused sustainability initiatives to improve female workers’ conditions in developing countries. The study does so by introducing and examining the influence of nonprofit boundary work during the CSC process.


The paper is based on thirty-four interviews and qualitative fieldwork. It draws on a case analysis of a regional CSC between multiple organizations operating locally in the apparel industry of Bangladesh, a developing country.


Scaffolding work in the CSC formation stage – performed by development agency implementers who construe boundaries – and sensitization work in the CSC implementation stage – performed by a non-governmental organization (NGO) implementers who blur and expand boundaries – emerge as two conceptual categories of nonprofit boundary work. This allows NGO implementers to identify and enable the agency of sustainability envoys or socially privileged individuals who capitalize on their social credentials to support female workers in the factory and in the community.


The study offers novel insights into the CSC process. It contributes to the CSC literature and the literature on boundary work, with a focus on gender-focused sustainability initiatives for female workers in developing countries.



I, Enrico Fontana, would like to express my gratitude to the editors of this special issues and two anonymous reviewers for the guidance throughout the whole review process. In particular, I would like to thank prof. Kathleen Rehbein (Marquette University College of Business Administration) for her constructive comments on a previous version of this manuscript discussed during the SIM-ONE Junior Faculty Consortium at the 2019 Academy of Management conference in Boston (USA). I would also like to thank prof. Andreas Rasche (Copenhagen Business School), prof. Emilia Cederberg (Stockholm School of Economics) and Natalie Anita Bye (Stockholm School of Economics) for their detailed suggestions during the “Work-in-Progress” seminar organized by Mistra Centre for Sustainable Markets in October 2019 in Stockholm (Sweden). Finally, I am particularly indebted to the Centre for Social and Sustainable Innovation (CSSI) at the Gustavson School of Business (University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada) where I was a post-doctoral fellow and conducted most of this research. CSSI receives funding from Newmont Goldcorp Inc.


Fontana, E., Heuer, M. and Koep, L. (2021), "Cross-sector collaboration and nonprofit boundary work for female workers in developing countries: evidence from Bangladesh", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 12 No. 6, pp. 1178-1207.



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