Unilateral standards for social responsibility: corporations as social watchdogs?

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Document type
Working Paper
Spence, Laura J; Bourlakis, Michael
Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of publication
1 August 2009
School of Management Working Paper Series
Management & leadership: including strategy, public sector management, operations and production
Business and management
Material type

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This paper focuses on the social dynamics of unilaterally determined social responsibility standards. These are put in the context of large customers in a supply chain determining company-specific standards, compliance with which is then a requirement for suppliers. We draw a brief comparison between multilaterally derived standards (such as those determined by the International Standards Organization) and unilaterally derived standards. Notably, there is an important difference stemming from the level of involvement and degree of control which the unilateral standard-setter has throughout the standard creation and implementation process. Indeed, we claim that the unilateral standard-setter which requires supplier compliance acts as regulator, monitor, and applier of sanctions to those supplier organizations. Ultimately, this puts the large corporation in the role of a Corporate Social Watchdog. In closing the paper we consider a future research agenda for this new concept.

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