Private Sustainability Governance, a New Frontier

This week I focused on the lens through which I will view my framework. I have been struggling to determine what angle of sustainability certifications my thesis will investigate- the role of individuals in ethical consumerism, the degree to which CSR programs are effective, or any number of relationships. It wasn’t until I gave myself time to be curious, to consider, what is it that draws me to voluntary standards, certifications, and CSR? that I unearthed my own interest.

I am an inherently institutional thinking, identifying power in big actors. It was during this pause that I realized I am most fascinated with the recent transition from states provision of protection of citizens and their long-term interests to the private and market sector.

In the last few decades we have seen how little public opinion influences policy, with big business bought into politics. Yet we do see consumers being heard in the market. We do see non-profits in the civil society sector demanding corporations make a change. And corporations, to a degree, have responded. We can argue as to why, or to what degree, but there is an undeniable shift in the most prevalent actors of corporate regulation- and it’s rarely the state.

Certified B Corporation is thus an even more relevant certification to study given its relation to regional laws. The benefit corporation status is a for-profit corporation that legally defines positive impacts on community and the environment as part of a corporation’s best interest, meaning that shareholders cannot sue for mismanagement of the corporation includes community in its mission. The first benefit corporation law passed in the United States in 2010; 35 states now have such legislation, with British Columbia the only local outside the US to pass such legal standing. Part of Certified B Corporations intention to spread that legal law. The private sector, a combination of NGO and market forces, has expressed concerted effort to influence the state into more regulation.

With this new approach to my framework topics, my next step is a detailed literature review.

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