Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 143, Issue 4, pp 771–787 | Cite as

Industry-Specific Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives That Govern Corporate Human Rights Standards: Legitimacy assessments of the Fair Labor Association and the Global Network Initiative

  • Dorothée Baumann-PaulyEmail author
  • Justine Nolan
  • Auret van Heerden
  • Michael Samway


Multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) are increasingly used as a default mechanism to address human rights challenges in a variety of industries. MSI is a designation that covers a broad range of initiatives from best-practice sharing learning platforms (e.g., the UN Global Compact) to certification bodies (e.g., the Forest Stewardship Council) and those targeted at addressing governance gaps (e.g., the Fair Labor Association). Critics contest the legitimacy of the private governance model offered by MSIs. The objective of this paper is (1) to theoretically develop a typology of MSIs, and (2) to empirically analyze the legitimacy of one specific type of MSI, namely industry-specific MSIs. We argue that industry-specific MSIs that set out to govern corporate behavior have great potential to develop legitimacy. We analyze two industry-specific MSIs—the Fair Labor Association and the Global Network Initiative—to get a better understanding of how these MSIs formed, how they define and enforce standards, and how they seek to ensure accountability. Based on these empirical illustrations, we discuss the value of this specific MSI model and draw implications for the democratic legitimacy of private governance mechanisms.


Legitimacy Multi-stakeholder initiatives Business and human rights Private governance mechanisms Voluntary corporate social responsibility initiatives 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dorothée Baumann-Pauly
    • 1
    Email author
  • Justine Nolan
    • 2
  • Auret van Heerden
    • 3
  • Michael Samway
    • 4
  1. 1.Stern School of Business, Center for Business and Human RightsNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Faculty of LawUniversity of New South WalesSydneyUSA
  3. 3.Equiception & Center for Business and Human RightsNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.School of Foreign ServiceGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA

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