Multinational enterprises and sustainability standards: Using a partnering-intensity continuum to classify their interactions

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - The sustainability performance of multinational enterprises (MNEs) is often judged from their participation in distinct sustainability standards initiatives. But MNEs interact with a variety of sustainability standards in their value chains. This chapter proposes a partneringintensity continuum to categorize the MNE-standards interactions to explore the benefits of a more firm-based approach for the assessment of MNEs' contributions to sustainability. Methodology/approach - The chapter describes standardization in coffee and biofuels industries and presents the case of a single firm to compose a continuum that reflects how MNEs move between standards attached to operations of single firms, bilateral arrangements with certification schemes, and multistakeholder partnerships. It elaborates this observed continuum by linking international business (IB) literature with the literature on global value chains (GVCs) and partnerships. Findings - Choices about how to partner in and how to handle control over the implementation of standards shape the contributions MNEs make to sustainable development. Specifying how MNEs interact with different standards, with varying degrees of partnering and combined logics, is proposed as a better way to assess how MNEs contribute to sustainable development compared to evaluating standards per se. Originality/value - This chapter draws attention to the phenomenon that international "lead firms" engage with a variety of standards. The chapter proposes that looking at partnering intensity and the subsequent level of influence over the implementation of standards enables assessing how and to what extent lead firms contribute to addressing sustainability problems.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Business and Sustainable Development
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series

SeriesProgress in International Business Research


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