Governance became a catch-all concept for various forms of steering by state and non-state actors. While it pays tribute to the complexities of steering in poly-centred, globalised societies, its fuzziness makes it difficult to oversee who actually steers whom and with what means. By focussing mainly on actor constellations, the article disentangles governance into seven basic types of regulation, four of them representing public policies with varying degrees of government involvement and three depending solely on civil society (civil regulation), on businesses (industry or business self-regulation) or on both (civil co-regulation). Although each of the seven types is well known and extensively researched, they are rarely joined in a synoptic view, making it difficult to grasp the totality of contemporary governance. After introducing the seven basic types of regulation and co-regulation, the article addresses the interactions between them and it adds the widely used concepts of hybrid regulation and meta-governance in distinct ways. The synoptic view provided here helps to comprehend how governmental deregulation has been accompanied by soft governmental regulation as well as “societal re-regulation”. The concluding discussion emphasises that this “regulatory reconfiguration” is the cumulative product of countless, more or less spontaneous initiatives that coincide with forceful global trends. It also stresses that the various forms of regulation by civil society and business actors are not simply alternatives or complements to but often key prerequisites for effective public policies. Although the essentials of the typology developed here can be applied universally to a variety of policy issues, I focus it on how businesses are steered towards sustainable development and Corporate Social Responsibility.
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For the synonymous use of governance and steering, see e.g. Rhodes (2000, 56). The synonymous use of governance and regulation is most obvious when scholars deviate from the standard vocabulary of “self-regulation” or “co-regulation” and speak of “self-governance” or “co-governance” (Kooiman 2003, 79–113).
A similar pooling of business and civil society actors to “private actors” can be found in an EU context. Since the EU defines co-regulation as Community legislative acts that entrust the attainment of their objectives to non-state parties (European Parliament et al. 2003, C331/3), it overlooks not only all non-legislative forms of co-regulation such as public–private partnerships (see “Unfolding the typology”), but also the difference between civil society and business actors. Accordingly, the EU defines self-regulation “as the possibility for economic operators, the social partners, non-governmental organisations or associations to adopt amongst themselves and for themselves common guidelines at European level” (European Parliament et al. 2003, C321/3; see also Senden 2005). Since “economic operators” and CSOs do not constitute a homogenous group that could be referred to as “themselves”, this notion of self-regulation is too vague for scholarly (and perhaps also for practical) purposes.
Since Levi-Faur (2010, 11f, 26f) pays close attention not only to who sets rules with what means, but also to who monitors and enforces the rules, the typology he proposes mirrors the complexities of contemporary governance (e.g. in matrices displaying up to 36 types of regulation), but makes it difficult to identify some basic types of regulation. Cafaggi (2011, 32), in turn, pays close attention not only to the regulators and those who are regulated, but also to the beneficiaries of regulation. While this differentiation is highly relevant in focused empirical research, it is difficult to employ in taxonomic works because steering practices of the same type can have varying beneficiaries. An example: as Héritier and Eckert (2008) show, self-regulation can benefit society (e.g. when the PVC industry reduces its environmental impacts) and/or the industry itself (e.g. when recycling quotas stabilise the paper industry), let alone governments who aim to solve problems without enacting new laws.
http://archive.wri.org/newsroom/wrifeatures_text.cfm?ContentID=371; retrieved on 10 December 2011.
The actor group referred to as “private sector” mixes businesses, trade associations and consumers. Obviously, the latter usually represent societal rather than business interests and should therefore be regarded as civil society stakeholder group (Kurzer and Cooper 2007).
Albareda (2008), for example, describes a transition from self-regulation to co-regulation but does not address civil regulation via stakeholder pressure. Auld et al. (2008), in turn, typologise “The New Corporate Social Responsibility” based on incongruent “taxonomic categories” such as actors (i.e. “Government traditional” or “individual firms”), types of regulation (“partnerships”) or particular tools of governance (i.e. “information approaches” or “environmental management systems”). Although the authors aim to provide a comprehensive picture of “CSR innovations”, they overlook, inter alia, civil regulation, tripartite co-regulation and soft governmental regulation other than informational approaches (for details on these types of regulation, see “Unfolding the typology”).
As Abbott and Snidal (2008, 16ff) show in more detail, the ideal-type logic of action in the business domain is preoccupied with competitiveness and profitability, and the key resources of businesses are technical expertise and financial clout. In contrast, CSOs are “norm entrepreneurs” (Abbott and Snidal 2008, 17) that pursue special (rather than public) interests or values. Since their motivation is usually moral- rather than profit-oriented, their key resources are legitimacy and trustworthiness (Mitchell et al. 1998). For governments, see the following “Regulation by governments: hard and soft”.
While Tollefson et al. (2012) consider actor constellations (or politics), the degree of institutionalisation and the regulatory dimension as three equivalent dimensions of governance, the typology developed here emphasises that actor constellations represent a primary criterion that shapes all other dimensions.
This definition is based on a definition of policy instruments provided by Howlett and Ramesh (1993, 4).
While Mörth (2004a) speaks of “soft law”, I prefer the broader term soft regulation.
For the important role soft law plays in the European context, see Mörth (2004c).
Strictly speaking, civil regulation is concerned with pressure exerted by societal stakeholders such as local communities, small-scale consumers and investors, CSOs, churches, scientists and think tanks (some of which maintain contractual relations with businesses) and excludes pressure through major business stakeholders (such as institutional investors and suppliers; see the section on business self-regulation). The employee stakeholder group is somewhere between these two categories.
The government actor involved in the GRI since 1999 (first in the steering committee, since 2002 in the GRI board of directors) is the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) (see http://www.globalreporting.org/AboutGRI/WhatIsGRI/History/OurHistory.htm; http://www.globalreporting.org/AboutGRI/WhoWeAre/GovernanceBodies/Board/).
As Bell and Hindmoor (2012, 155) show for the United States, hard law that requires proof of legal logging can facilitate the private co-regulatory FSC scheme because it guarantees legal compliance.
Note that I use the concept of “responsive regulation” in a narrow sense, which is in line with the enforcement pyramid rather than with the pyramid of enforcement strategies (for details, see Ayres and Braithwaite 1992, 35–39).
Although voluntary (often non-state) initiatives that aim to improve the transparency of CSR (such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)) can also be referred to as “governing by disclosure” (Pattberg 2012, 616), they must not be confused with the governmental version of regulation by information as described here.
Peters (2010, 44f) also recognises performance and strategic management in the public sector as key instruments of meta-governance.
Glasbergen (2011) frames successful examples of civil or tripartite co-regulation (such as the Forest Stewardship Council and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)) as private meta-governance because these schemes influenced other types of regulation. For Abbott and Snidal (2010), orchestration is, inter alia, what I frame as “governing at arm’s length”.
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I thank the anonymous reviewers from Policy Sciences for their constructive comments and James Meadowcroft for helping me to improve the title of the article. I also thank Karl Hogl for giving me the opportunity to accomplish my Habilitation at BOKUs InFER which finally led to this article.
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Steurer, R. Disentangling governance: a synoptic view of regulation by government, business and civil society. Policy Sci 46, 387–410 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11077-013-9177-y