Chapter 4: Corporate accountability, fair trade and multi-stakeholder regulation
Progressive civil society actors, both historically and today, have played a key role in efforts to tame big business and market forces. But current forms of engagement are quite different to those of the early and mid-20th century when trades unions and faith-based organizations took the lead. This reflects the significant changes that have occurred in the character of civil society, evidenced in: 1) the rise of new social movements such as the anti-sweatshop, fair trade and environmental justice movements; 2) the rapid expansion of ‘professional’ service delivery non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that depend on government grants, philanthropy and consultancies for their funding; 3) the participation of NGOs in policy dialogues, so-called epistemic communities and public–private partnerships; and 4) new forms of advocacy and policy engagement through networks and multi-stakeholder initiatives. The portfolio of action and institutions that constitute ‘civil regulation’ (Murphy and Bendell 1997) concerned with environmental, social and governance (ESG) dimensions of business behavior and trade has broadened significantly (Utting 2012b). One of the most significant developments in recent years relates to the growing importance of NGOs or multi-stakeholder entities as formal regulatory actors. They are assuming regulatory authority, that is, taking on functions – hitherto associated with state institutions – that involve the design, promotion and implementation of standards (Braithwaite 2005).
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