Chapter 22: Voluntary standards as enablers and impediments to sustainable consumption
Voluntary standards for corporate sustainability and responsibility have proliferated over the last two decades. Examples of such standards include ISO 14001, the United Nations Global Compact, the Global Reporting Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council. Although these standards differ significantly in terms of how they function and what they aim to achieve – ranging from broad principles to stipulate organizational learning around responsible business (Rasche 2012) to initiatives which certify and label organizations, products and services (Berliner and Prakash 2013) – they jointly reflect what Waddock (2008) calls a ‘new institutional infrastructure’ for corporate sustainability and responsibility. Such standards have been subject of intense scholarly debate. Research has explored how selected initiatives are produced (Tamm Hallström 2008), in what ways standards can achieve legitimacy (Bernstein and Cashore 2007), what impact standard adoption has on social and environmental problems (Bartley 2007; Potoski and Prakash 2005), what factors determine standard diffusion (Delmas 2002) and whether adopters walk their talk when signing up to initiatives (Behnam and Maclean 2011).
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