Sub-theme 39: Governing for Sustainability: Exploring How Public and Private Forms of Governance Interact

Johanna Järvelä
IESEG School of Management, France
Jette Steen Knudsen
Tufts University, USA
Jean-Pascal Gond
City, University of London, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

The sub-theme is interested in understanding how we govern for good life within wider society. We seek to explore the new divisions of responsibility between the public and private actors and their governance interactions, and how they can be designed and devised to bring about better future including resilience, equality and well-being of people and planet.
Traditionally management and organisation studies scholars have investigated the governance gaps created by powerful global multinationals and territorially bounded governments (Laasonen et al., 2012), how private actors have become political actors and providers of public goods (Scherer & Palazzo, 2011), and the institutionalisation, legitimacy and outcomes of new forms of multi-stakeholder governance (de Bakker et al., 2019).
On the other hand, the literature has highlighted the different ways in which governments influence corporate responsibilities and private governance (Gond et al., 2011; Knudsen & Moon, 2022) through mandating, orchestration, agenda-setting or by enrolling private actors to multi-stakeholder initiatives (Eberlein, 2019). Recent research has also shown how governments can exert law-based governance structures for corporate responsibility through home state legislation (LeBaron & Rühmkorf, 2017), international treaties (Schrempf-Stirling, 2018), and other legal restrictions that enable states to govern corporations home and away (Knudsen & Moon, 2017). Furthermore, rule of law (Sallai & Schnyder, 2021), rights protection and mobilisation (Maher, Monciardini, & Böhm, 2020) and principles of democratic decision-making are crucial in securing accountability of the different governance systems.
Importantly, these two fields of governing the public policies and laws, and the private forms of multi-stakeholder governance do not exist in parallel universes but they interact and influence each other. Private governance is partially embedded in public governing and institutions, which influences, for example, the configurations, efficiency and enforcement of these private forms (Bartley, 2022). The interactions between the public and private actors are often layered (Giamporcaro et al., 2020), and they can compete, complement or coexist with each other (Cashore et al., 2021). The dynamics of the interactions can change over time and competitive forms can undermine, complement, reinforce or substitute each other. Nation states are also the locations in which transnational governance takes place, and the implementation of the multi-stakeholder standards often take national forms (Graz, 2022) and can be adapted or repurposed (Marques & Eberlein, 2020) depending on the history and interests involved.
We have only begun to understand how these different layers, mechanisms and outcomes of the governance interactions influence each other and are embedded in different contexts. This sub-theme asks what can we learn of the legacy of governing to better respond to current global challenges, and how the current governance legacies restrict or enable good life for all. We invite scholars to explore these softer and harder forms of governance and their interactions, and how those will enhance or hinder the good life for all in a sustainable world. We are especially interested in finding new theoretical avenues to examine the interactions, competition or struggles (whichever way framed), and offering new insights to their contribution to the management of ongoing grand challenges such as gender inequality, poverty, the loss of biodiversity or climate change. However, we also invite rich contextual understandings in how these interactions are embedded in and in reciprocal relations with the empirical realities they are situated in.
The possible questions include but are not limited to:
Macro-level societal and social governance dynamics

  • Which combinations or private and public forms of governance can effectively promote the commong good?

  • How do public and private actors perceive the legitimacy of new forms of governance? How do these modes of governancne become socially acceptable at local and global scales?

Meso-level governancne of multi-stakeholder initiative dynamics

  • How is the accountability of corporations, governments and stakeholders participating in multi-stakeholders initiatives established in the context of new forms of governance of sustainability issues?

  • What kind of process and metrics are important? Are deliberative democratic dynamics involved in such processes? If so, what make these deliberative dynamics work? Which social technologies are involved in the design of successful governance for sustainability issues?

Micro-level individual and organizational dynamics of governance

  • What is the strategy of each partner for identifying and allocating risk and are the partners responsible for each type of risk able to manage it? Are there risks that cannot/should not be shifted from the public to the private sector?

  • How do corporate actions such as adherence or avoidance of new governance requirements influence the effectiveness of these initiatives?

  • Who are the actors involved in the production, maintenance and transformation of the new governance dynamics across different scales and places? What are their motivations? How do they develop the political skills needed to deal with the tensions inherent to multi-level and multi-stakeholder governance dynamics?

We are also interested in theoretical and empirical research cutting across these levels of analysis or conceptualizing their relationships.


  • Bartley, T. (2022): “Power and the Practice of Transnational Private Regulation.” New Political Economy, 27 (2), 188–202.
  • Cashore, B., Knudsen, J.S., Moon, J., & van der Ven, H. (2021): “Private authority and public policy interactions in global context: Governance spheres for problem solving.” Regulation & Governance, 15 (4), 1166–1182.
  • de Bakker, F.G.A., Rasche, A., & Ponte, S. (2019): “Multistakeholder initiatives on Sustainability: A cross-diciplinary review and research agenda.” Business Ethics Quarterly, 29 (3), 343–383.
  • Eberlein, B. (2019): “Who Fills the Global Governance Gap? Rethinking the Roles of Business and Government in Global Governance.” Organization Studies, 40 (8), 1125–1145.
  • Giamporcaro, S., Gond, J.-P., & O’Sullivan, N. (2020): “Orchestrating Governmental Corporate Social Responsibility Interventions through Financial Markets – The Case of French Socially Responsible Investment.” Business Ethics Quarterly, 30 (3), 288–334.
  • Gond, J.-P., Kang, N., & Moon, J. (2011): “The government of self-regulation: on the comparative dynamics of corporate social responsibility.” Economy and Society, 40 (4), 640–671.
  • Graz, J.C. (2022): “Grounding the Politics of Transnational Private Governance: Introduction to the Special Section.” New Political Economy, 27 (2), 177–187.
  • Knudsen, J.S., & Moon, J. (2017): Visible Hands: Government Regulation and International Business Responsibility. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Knudsen, J.S., & Moon, J. (2022): “Corporate Social Responsibility and Government: The Role of Discretion for Engagement with Public Policy.” Business Ethics Quarterly, 32 (2), 243–271.
  • Laasonen, S., Fougère, M., & Kourula, A. (2012): “Dominant Articulations in Academic Business and Society Discourse on NGO–Business Relations: A Critical Assessment.” Journal of Business Ethics, 109 (4), 521–545.
  • LeBaron, G., & Rühmkorf, A. (2017): “Steering CSR Through Home State Regulation: A Comparison of the Impact of the UK Bribery Act and Modern Slavery Act on Global Supply Chain Governance.” Global Policy, 8 (S3), 15–28.
  • Maher, R., Monciardini, D., & Böhm, S. (2020): “Torn between Legal Claiming and Privatized Remedy: Rights Mobilization against Gold Mining in Chile.” Business Ethics Quarterly, 31 (1), 37–74.
  • Marques, J.C., & Eberlein, B. (2020): “Grounding transnational business governance: A political‐strategic perspective on government responses in the Global South.” Regulation & Governance, 15 (4), 1209–1229.
  • Sallai, D., & Schnyder, G. (2021): “What Is ‘Authoritarian’ About Authoritarian Capitalism? The Dual Erosion of the Private–Public Divide in State-Dominated Business Systems.” Business & Society, 60 (6), 1312–1348.
  • Scherer, A.G., & Palazzo, G. (2011): “The New Political Role of Business in a Globalized World: A Review of a New Perspective on CSR and its Implications for the Firm, Governance, and Democracy.” Journal of Management Studies, 48 (4), 899–931.
  • Schrempf-Stirling, J. (2016): “State Power: Rethinking the Role of the State in Political Corporate Social Responsibility.” Journal of Business Ethics, 150 (1), 1–14.
Johanna Järvelä is Assistant Professor of Business and Society at IESEG Business School, France. Her research focuses on the interplay between private and public governance in defining and guiding societal good, the role of state and politics in corporate responsibility (CSR), the role of businesses in development, and CSR in the realm of blended finance and partnerships for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Jette Steen Knudsen is Professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, USA. Her research centers on the interface between government regulation and business actions, in particular on labor market issues including labor rights in global supply chains, the changing nature and organization of work in the US and Europe and explores how government-business interactions can play a role in creating good jobs. Her work has been published in many journals such as the ‘British Journal of Industrial Relations’, ‘Business Ethics Quarterly’, ‘Comparative Political Studies’, and ‘Regulation and Governance’.
Jean-Pascal Gond is Chair Professor of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at Bayes Business School, City, University London, UK. His research, which investigates the social construction of CSR and the performativity of management theories, has been published in journals such as ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Business Ethics Quarterly’, ‘Organization Science’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Journal of Management’ or the ‘Journal of Management Studies’.