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Transnational Business Governance Interactions

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Transnational Business Governance Interactions

Professor Stepan Wood, Acting Director of IRIS—the Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability at York University (, is leading an international research project on the forms and dynamics of interaction among transnational business governance initiatives. The project investigates a development that has largely escaped academic attention but is increasingly a fact of life for transnational companies, standards-setting groups and governments.  From accounting standards to sustainable forestry certification, more and more of the norms and standards that govern business emanate not from conventional state institutions, but from an array of private and multi-stakeholder institutions operating in a dynamic, transnational regulatory space.

As these initiatives multiply within and across issue areas and industry sectors, they interact with one another and with state-based regulation.   Such transnational business governance interactions have substantial implications for business strategy and public policy.  Yet little is known about the forms and dynamics of these interactions, how they constitute larger regulatory formations, or their implications for society, economy or environment.  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?

Four university partners and a leading association of social and environmental standards-setting bodies are partnering to create an international research network on transnational business governance interactions, conduct collaborative interdisciplinary research, create policy-relevant knowledge and mobilize knowledge in support of innovative and effective policy solutions.

The partner institutions are York University (, Arizona State University (, the London School of Economics and Political Science (, the Baldy Centre for Law and Social Policy of the State University of New York at Buffalo (, and the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling (ISEAL) Alliance (  The project is hosted by IRIS and is funded by a three-year Partnership Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

The project aims to make substantial strides in improving knowledge of the important yet largely ignored dynamics of interaction in transnational business governance, and in mobilizing this knowledge in support of innovative policy solutions that promote social, environmental and economic goals.

Participating Researchers

The project team is made up of 31 researchers from 9 countries, representing 23 research institutions.

Principal investigator

Stepan Wood (Osgoode Hall Law School, York University), a scholar of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and voluntary standards, and vice-chair of Canada’s national committee on environmental management systems.


Kenneth Abbott (Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University)

Julia Black (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Burkard Eberlein (Schulich School of Business, York University)

Errol Meidinger (Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy, University at Buffalo

Alan Richardson (Schulich School of Business, York University)

Sasha Courville (ISEAL Alliance)


Graeme Auld (Carleton University)

Steven Bernstein (University of Toronto)

Benjamin Cashore (Yale University)

Jennifer Clapp (University of Waterloo)

Wesley Cragg (Schulich School of Business and Canadian Business Ethics Research Network, York University)

Andrew Crane (Schulich School of Business, York University)

Claire Cutler (University of Victoria)

Hevina Dashwood (Brock University)

Klaus Dingwerth (University of Bremen)

David Doorey (York University)

Jessica Green (Case Western Reserve University)

Lars Gulbrandsen (Fridtjof Nansen Institute)

Virginia Haufler (University of Maryland)

Martin Herberg (University of Bremen)

Nico Krisch (Hertie School of Governance)

Dirk Matten (Centre of Excellence in Responsible Business, York University)

Christine Overdevest (University of Florida)

Oren Perez (Bar-Ilan University)

Tony Porter (McMaster University)

César Rodríguez-Garavito (Centro de Estudios de Derecho, Justicia y Sociedad)

Colin Scott (Centre for Regulation and Governance, University College Dublin)

Tim Smith (Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota)

David Szablowski (York University)

Kernaghan Webb (Institute for the Study of CSR, Ryerson University)

Peer Zumbansen (Osgoode Hall Law School, York University)