Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Accountability in a Global Economy: The Emergence of International Accountability Standards


This article assesses the proliferation of international accountability standards (IAS) in the recent past. We provide a comprehensive overview about the different types of standards and discuss their role as part of a new institutional infrastructure for corporate responsibility. Based on this, it is argued that IAS can advance corporate responsibility on a global level because they contribute to the closure of some omnipresent governance gaps. IAS also improve the preparedness of an organization to give an explanation and a justification to relevant stakeholders for its judgments, intentions, acts and omissions when appropriately called upon to do so. However, IAS also face a variety of problems impeding their potential to help address social and environmental issues. The contribution of the four articles in this special section is discussed in the context of standards’ problems and opportunities. The article closes by outlining a research agenda to further develop and extend the scholarly debate around IAS.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

K. W. Abbott , R. O. Keohane , A. Moravcsik , A.-M. Slaughter , & D. Snidal 2000. The concept of legalization. International Organization, 54: 40119.

K. W. Abbott , & D. Snidal 2000. Hard and soft law in international governance. International Organization, 54: 42156.

C. A. Adams 2004. The ethical, social and environmental reporting-performance portrayal gap. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 17: 73157.

D. Aravind , & P. Christmann 2011. Decoupling of standard implementation from certification: Does quality of ISO 14001 implementation affect facilities’ environmental performance? Business Ethics Quarterly, 21: 73102.

D. Bales 2005. Understanding global slavery. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

B. Banerjee 2003. Who sustains whose development? Sustainable development and the reinvention of nature. Organization Studies, 24: 14380.

M. Behnam , & T. L. MacLean 2011. Where Is the accountability in international accountability standards? A decoupling perspective. Business Ethics Quarterly, 21: 4572.

J. Bendell 2005. In whose name? The accountability of corporate social responsibility? Development in Practice, 15: 36274.

S. Bernstein , & B. Cashore 2007. Can non-state global governance be legitimate? An analytical framework. Regulation and Governance, 1: 34771.

V. Bitzer , M. Francken , & P. Glasbergen 2008. Intersectoral partnerships for a sustainable coffee chain: Really addressing sustainability or just picking (coffee) cherries? Global Environmental Change, 18: 27184.

J. Black 2008. Constructing and contesting legitimacy and accountability in polycentric regulatory regimes. Regulation and Governance, 2: 13764.

O. Boiral 2003. ISO 9000: Outside the iron cage. Organization Science, 14: 72037.

M. Boström 2003. How state-dependent is a non-state-driven rule-making project? The case of forest certification in Sweden. Environmental Policy and Planning, 5: 16580.

P. Christmann , & G. Taylor 2006. Firm self-regulation through international certifiable standards: Determinants of symbolic versus substantive implementation. Journal of International Business Studies, 37: 863878.

A. Clapham 2006. Human rights obligations of non-state actors. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

S. M. Cooper , & D. Owen 2007. Corporate social reporting and stakeholder accountability: The missing link. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 32: 64967.

A. C. Cutler 2001. Critical reflections on the Westphalian assumptions of international law and organization: A crisis of legitimacy. Review of International Studies, 27: 13350.

R. A. Dahl 1999. Can international organizations be democratic? A skeptic’s view. In I. Shapiro & C. Hacker-Cordon (Eds.), Democracy’s edges: 1936. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

M. Delmas , & M. Montes-Sancho 2011. An institutional perspective on the diffusion of international management system standards: The case of the environmental management standard ISO 14001. Business Ethics Quarterly, 21: 10332.

M. L. Djelic , & K. Sahlin-Andersson 2006. Introduction: A world of governance: The rise of transnational regulation. In M. L. Djelic & K. Sahlin-Andersson (Eds.), Transnational governance: Institutional dynamics of regulation: 128. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

D. Etzion , & F. Ferraro 2010. The role of analogy in the institutionalization of sustainability reporting. Organization Science, 21: 10921107.

A. Fung 2003. Deliberative democracy and international labor standards. Governance, 16: 5171.

D. U. Gilbert , & A. Rasche 2007. Discourse ethics and social accountability: The ethics of SA8000. Business Ethics Quarterly, 17: 187216.

D. U. Gilbert , & A. Rasche 2008. Opportunities and problems of standardized ethics initiatives: A stakeholder theory perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 82: 75573.

M. Göbbels , & J. Jonker 2003. AA1000 and SA8000 compared: A systematic comparison of contemporary accountability standards. Managerial Auditing Journal, 18: 5458.

D. Jamali 2010. MNCs and international accountability standards through an institutional lens: Evidence of symbolic conformity or decoupling. Journal of Business Ethics, 95: 61740.

G. Kell 2005. The Global Compact selected experiences and reflections. Journal of Business Ethics, 59: 6979.

G. Kell , & D. Levin 2003. The Global Compact network: An historic experiment in learning and action. Business and Society Review, 108: 15181.

F. R. Khan , K. A. Munir , & H. Willmott 2007. A dark side of institutional entrepreneurship: Soccer balls, child labour, and postcolonial impoverishment. Organization Studies, 28: 105577.

S. J. Kobrin 2009. Private political authority and public responsibility: Transnational politics, transnational firms, and human rights. Business Ethics Quarterly, 19: 34974.

J. Kurlantzick 2004. Taking multinationals to court: How the Alien Tort Act promotes human rights. World Policy Journal, Spring: 6067.

D. Leipziger 2010. The corporate responsibility code book (2nd ed.). Sheffield: Greenleaf.

D. L. Levy , H. S. Brown , & M. de Jong 2009. The contested politics of corporate governance: The case of the Global Reporting Initiative. Business & Society, 49: 88115.

R. Locke , M. Amengual , & A. Mangla 2009. Virtue out of necessity? Compliance, commitment and the improvement of labor conditions in global supply chains. Politics and Society, 37: 31951.

D. O’Rourke 2003. Outsourcing regulation: Analyzing nongovernmental systems of labour standards and monitoring. Policy Studies Journal, 31: 129.

G. Palazzo , & A. G. Scherer 2006. Corporate legitimacy as deliberation: A communicative framework. Journal of Business Ethics, 66: 7188.

S. Picciotto 2008. Constitutionalizing multilevel governance? International Journal of Constitutional Law, 6: 45779.

A. Rasche 2009a. “A necessary supplement”: What the United Nations Global Compact is and is not. Business and Society, 48: 51137.

A. Rasche 2009b. Toward a model to compare and analyze accountability standards: The case of the UN Global Compact. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 16: 192205.

A. Rasche , & D. E. Esser 2006. From stakeholder management to stakeholder accountability: Applying Habermasian discourse ethics to accountability research. Journal of Business Ethics, 65: 25167.

A. Rasche , & G. Kell (Eds.). 2010. The United Nations Global Compact: Achievements, trends and challenges. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

J. G. Ruggie 2004. Reconstituting the global public domain: Issues, actors and practices. European Journal of International Relations, 10: 499531.

A. G. Scherer , & G. Palazzo 2007. Toward a political conception of corporate responsibility: Business and society seen from a Habermasian perspective. Academy of Management Review, 32: 10961120.

D. A. Schuler , & P. Christmann 2011. The effectiveness of market-based governance schemes: The case of fair trade coffee. Business Ethics Quarterly, 21: 13356.

I. Stigzelius , & C. Mark-Herbert 2009. Tailoring corporate responsibility to suppliers: Managing SA8000 in Indian garment nanufacturing. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 25: 4656.

M. Suchman 1995. Managing legitimacy: Strategic and institutional approaches. Academy of Management Review, 20: 571610.

P. Utting 2008. The struggle for corporate accountability. Development and Change, 39: 95975.

D. Vogel 2008. Private global business regulation. Annual Review of Political Science, 11: 26282.

S. Waddock 2008. Building a new institutional infrastructure for corporate responsibility. Academy of Management Perspectives, 22: 87108.

G. R. Weaver , L. K. Treviño , & P. Cochran 1999. Corporate ethics programs as control systems: Influences of executive commitment and environmental factors. Academy of Management Journal, 42: 4157.

O. F. Williams 2004. The UN Global Compact: The challenge and the promise. Business Ethics Quarterly, 14: 75574.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Business Ethics Quarterly
  • ISSN: 1052-150X
  • EISSN: 2153-3326
  • URL: /core/journals/business-ethics-quarterly
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 185 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1169 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 29th May 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.