Sub-Plenary 1-4

At the Crossroads for More Radical Forms of Transnational Governance for Humanizing Global Supply Chains


Thursday, July 4, 2024, 16:00–17:30 CEST

U6 Building – “AGORÀ” | Room: U6-P0-06 | Piazza dell’Ateneo Nuovo, 1 | 20126 Milano

Sarah Ashwin, London School of Economics (LSE), United Kingdom
Elke Schüßler, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany
Nora Lohmeyer, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Jill Purdy, University of Washington Tacoma, USA
Juliane Reinecke, University of Oxford, Saïd Business School, United Kingdom
Vivek Soundararajan, University of Bath, United Kingdom

Grand challenges such as climate change, diminishing biodiversity, a range of humanitarian crises, frequent human rights violations, often happening at the same time and reinforcing each other, can often be tied to transnational business activities in the context of global supply chains. These activities are embedded in a web of national and transnational institutional systems (Djelic & Quack, 2018) that incentivize economic gains over the protection of collective goods.

For decades, fixes to this system have relied on the same neoliberal market structures from which many current grand challenges stem, most prominently through modes of private transnational governance such as voluntary corporate social responsibility and a growing market of standards, certifications and auditing schemes (e.g., Rasche, 2010; Reinecke et al., 2012; Kuruvilla, 2021). Organization scholars have prominently contributed to our understanding of these dominant modes of governance, including their potentials as well as inherent tensions (e.g. Gray et al., 2022; Gray & Purdy, 2018; Grimm & Reinecke, in press). Only recently, calls are getting louder to address the root causes of labor and environmental exploitation by regulating global markets (e.g. de Bakker et al. 2020) and humanizing supply chains through various means (Soundararajan et al., 2021).
This sub-plenary invites organization scholars to go beyond researching and criticizing market-based transnational governance mechanisms towards actively engaging in exploring alternative modes of transnational governance. Examples worth discussing are consequent forms of transnational industrial democracy (Reinecke & Donaghey, 2023), as e.g. supported through transnational industrial relations agreements (Ashwin et al., 2020), or the recent supply chain due diligence acts developed e.g. in France, Germany, the Netherlands and on an EU level (e.g., Rasche & Waddock, 2008). These developments need to be supported by new multi-stakeholder initiatives that allow for stronger human rights or environmental governance (e.g., Baumann-Pauly & Posner, 2023) and create ‘rights, not rules’ (Bartley, 2018) for weakly represented actors – including the natural environment. More binding governance mechanisms have the potential of creating market-protected spaces (Schüßler et al., 2023) in which responsible management practices can be prioritized. This sub-plenary will discuss emerging insights on the actors, governance mechanisms, cross-level dynamics, and contestation processes surrounding such recent initiatives to provide a perspective on their potential for practice, and for organizational scholarship.
The sub-plenary will be structured as follows:

  • Elke Schüßler will introduce the panel and provide introductory questions and reflections regarding the symptoms and root causes of labor and environmental exploitation in the global economy, the proliferation of governance initiatives on different levels as well as their possible implications, and raise open questions regarding their status, impact and interrelationships.

  • Jill Purdy will present insights from longstanding research on multi-stakeholder initiatives as a primary mode of addressing societal concerns, reflect about their promises and pitfalls in different contexts and fields, and point to possible future pathways of multi-stakeholder initiatives as a mode of transnational governance.

  • Juliane Reinecke will reflect about the potential of transnational industrial democracy to address human rights concerns based on her fieldwork on the garment industry in Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Accord as a new transnational governance instrument that is able to include workers’ representatives more systematically.

  • Nora Lohmeyer will also talk about the potential of and need for more binding forms of transnational governance as a means of creating market-protected spaces. While these can include transnational accords that provide industry-level binding standards, her presentation will focus mainly on the emerging supply chain due diligence legislations.

  • Vivek Soundararajan will emphasize the need to address local-level inequalities, such as those related to caste and gender based on his research on food, garment and IT supply chains. He will then present a framework for a systemic approach of addressing root causes that draws on insights from multiple disciplines and elaborates on concrete mechanisms on different levels.

  • Elke Schüßler will then facilitate a discussion between the panelists and the audience and offer concluding thoughts and pathways for further research for organizational scholarship at the interface of other disciplines such as political science, industrial relations research or international relations.


  • Ashwin, S., Oka, C., Schüßler, E., Alexander, R., & Lohmeyer, N. (2020): “Spillover effects across transnational industrial relations agreements: The potential and limits of collective action in global supply chains.” ILR Review, 73 (4), 995–1020.
  • Bartley, T. (2018): Rules without Rights. Land, Labor, and Private Authority in the Global Economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Baumann-Pauly, D., & Posner, M. (2023): “Multistakeholder human rights initiatives.” In: A. Ewing (ed.): Teaching Business and Human Rights. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 219–229.
  • De Bakker, F.G., Matten, D., Spence, L.J., & Wickert, C. (2020): “The elephant in the room: The nascent research agenda on corporations, social responsibility, and capitalism.” Business & Society, 59 (7), 1295–1302.
  • Djelic, M.L., & Quack, S. (2018): “Globalization and business regulation.” Annual Review of Sociology, 44, 123–143.
  • Gray, B., Purdy, J., & Ansari, S. (2022): “Confronting Power Asymmetries in Partnerships to Address Grand Challenges.” Organization Theory, 3 (2),
  • Gray, B., & Purdy, J. (2018): Collaborating for Our Future: Multistakeholder Partnerships for Solving Complex Problems. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Grimm, J., & Reinecke, J. (in press): “Collaborating on the Edge of Failure: Frame Alignment Across Multiple Interaction Arenas in Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships.” Academy of Management Journal; Abstract published online on November 30, 2023,
  • Kuruvilla, S. (2021): Private Regulation of Labor Standards in Global Supply Chains: Problems, Progress, and Prospects. New York: Cornell University Press.
  • Rasche, A. (2010): “The limits of corporate responsibility standards.” Business Ethics: A European Review, 19 (3), 280–291.
  • Rasche, A., & Waddock, S. (2021): “The UN guiding principles on business and human rights: Implications for corporate social responsibility research.” Business and Human Rights Journal, 6 (2), 227–240.
  • Reinecke, J., & Donaghey, J. (2023): Stitching Governance for Labour Rights. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Reinecke, J., Manning, S., & von Hagen, O. (2012): “The emergence of a standards market: Multiplicity of sustainability standards in the global coffee industry.” Organization Studies, 33 (5–6), 791–814.
  • Schüßler, E.S., Lohmeyer, N., & Ashwin, S. (2023): “’We can’t compete on human rights’: Creating market-protected spaces to institutionalize the emerging logic of responsible management.” Academy of Management Journal, 66 (4), 1071–1101.
  • Soundararajan, V., Wilhelm, M.M., & Crane, A. (2021): “Humanizing research on working conditions in supply chains: Building a path to decent work.” Journal of Supply Chain Management, 57 (2), 3–13.

Sarah Ashwin is Professor of Comparative Employment Relations and Head of the Department of Management, London School of Economics, United Kingdom. The latest stream of her research focuses on the governance of global supply chains in the garment industry. As part of international research project, Sarah’s work analyses global labour governance through corporate social responsibility within the firm and transnational industrial relations agreements beyond it.

Nora Lohmeyer is Assistant Professor of Organizational Design and Development at Radboud University Nijmegen, Institute for Management Research, The Netherlands. Her research revolves around the politics of corporate responsibility, the privatization of regulation, and the governance of labor standards in the global garment industry.
Jill Purdy is Professor of Management and Director of the Entrepreneurship Initiative at University of Washington Tacoma, USA. She is interested in how collaboration and entrepreneurship can generate innovative and sustainable solutions to challenging problems that often span across the business, government, and nonprofit sectors. Jill’s current research focuses on power in partnerships, building entrepreneurial ecosystems, and social and environmental innovation.
Juliane Reinecke is Professor of Management Studies at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, United Kingdom. Her research explores how transnational governance institutions emerge and evolve as a result of the interactions of multiple stakeholders to promote more just and sustainable forms of globalisation in global supply chains, but also organisations in general.
Vivek Soundararajan is Professor of Work and Equality at the Centre for Business, Organisations and Society at the University of Bath, United Kingdom. He conducts research primarily on governance of labour rights in supply chains and inequalities in and around organizations.
Elke Schüßler is Professor of Business Administration, in particular Entrepreneurship, at Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany. She studies dynamics of organizational and institutional change with a focus on the development of sustainable forms of work and organizing. Elke is also interested in various forms of academic activism and the potential contribution of management scholarship in a world increasingly disrupted by crises.