Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 131, Issue 2, pp 469–486 | Cite as

How Do Firms Comply with International Sustainability Standards? Processes and Consequences of Adopting the Global Reporting Initiative

  • Laurence VigneauEmail author
  • Michael Humphreys
  • Jeremy Moon


This paper addresses the issue of the influence of global governance institutions, particularly international sustainability standards, on a firm’s intra-organizational practices. More precisely, we provide an exploratory empirical view of the impact of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) on a multinational corporation’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) management practices. We investigate standard compliance by comparing the stated intention of the use of the GRI with its actual use and the consequent effects within the firm. Based on an in-depth case study, our findings illustrate the processes and consequences of the translation of the GRI within the organization. We show that substantive standard adoption can lead to unintended consequences on CSR management practices; specifically it can influence the management structure and CSR committee function; the choice of CSR activities, the relationships between subsidiaries, the temporal dimension of CSR management and the interpretation of CSR performance. We also highlight the need to look at the relationship dynamics (or lack of) between standards. Finally, we illustrate and discuss the role of reporting and its influence on management in order to better understand the internal issues arising from compliance with standards.


Compliance Corporate social responsibility Global Reporting Initiative Qualitative case study Standardization Translation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laurence Vigneau
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael Humphreys
    • 2
  • Jeremy Moon
    • 3
  1. 1.University of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  2. 2.University of DurhamDurhamUK
  3. 3.Copenhagen Business SchoolCopenhagenDenmark

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