Fostering effective sustainability governance through standards - a comparative analysis of B Corp and ISO14001 certification schemes
MetadataShow full item record
Sustainability Certification Schemes (SCS) has evolved in the past decades as a dominant and transformative form of social and environmental governance. Especially adopted by private companies, hundreds of SCS have been developed to address a multitude of sustainability-related issues as a result of contemporary economic and industrial activities. As SCS have been found useful tools to both address sustainability issues by companies while demonstrating the efforts made to address them, this has created a worrying trend of proliferation, leading to many duplications and race to the bottom. Following this concerns, this research aims to assist academics and practitioners to navigate between more desirable SCS with the aim of advancing sustainable development. Specifically, the research aims to understand the condition of which SCS are deemed more effective in fostering sustainability governance amongst companies. The methodology of this study started by performing an extensive literature review on the theoretical effective governance of SCS. The relevant literature has been captured into a theoretical framework for evaluating these conditions for effective governance. The framework contains the following conditions: 1) Sustainability dimensions, 2) Stringency of the standards, 3) Quality of the audit, 4) Accountability and Transparency, 5) Stakeholder participation and decision-making procedures, 6) Distributive equity, 7) Uptake. The framework has been applied on non-industry specific SCS, referring to standards that can be adopted by all types of companies. Two different but comparable cases have been chosen for this comparative study. The B Corp standard and ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management System (EMS). The findings show inconclusive results in terms of effectiveness. Both cases present generally high qualitative score for effectiveness. Especially ISO 14001:2015 performs well in terms of its rigour of its requirements and audits, with high transparency and accountability, and superior uptake. Both cases show high performance for addressing high-quality decision-making. In terms of notable shortcoming, both cases seem to not address the distribution of costs and benefits of stakeholders. Finally, ISO 14001 is limited in its scope as it only addressed environmental-sustainability. Important findings reveal the importance of interlinkages and trade-offs between the standard, which have been discussed shortly. Future research addressing the complexity of interactions between conditions for effective governance will be valuable contribution to this field of research. Finally, there is a growing need to better understanding non-industry specific standards, such as two cases, as viable game changers in sustainability governance and their role accelerating sustainable market transformation.