Opportunities and Problems of Standardized Ethics Initiatives: A Stakeholder Theory Perspective

19 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2010 Last revised: 19 Oct 2014

See all articles by Dirk Ulrich Gilbert

Dirk Ulrich Gilbert

University of Hamburg

Andreas Rasche

Copenhagen Business School

Date Written: 2008


This article explains problems and opportunities created by standardized ethics initiatives (e.g., the UN Global Compact, the Global Reporting Initiative, and SA 8000) from the perspective of stakeholder theory. First, we outline differences and commonalities among currently existing initiatives and thus generate a common ground for our discussion. Second, based on these remarks, we critically evaluate standardized ethics initiatives by drawing on descriptive, instrumental, and normative stakeholder theory. In doing so, we explain why these standards are helpful tools when it comes to ‘managing’ stakeholder relations but also face considerable limitations that can eventually hamper their successful expansion. We suspect that this discussion is necessary to conduct meaningful empirical research in the future and also to provide managers with a more clear-cut picture about a successful application of such initiatives. Third, we outline possible ways to cope with the identified problems and thus demonstrate how standard-setting institutions can improve the initiatives they offer.

Keywords: Standardized Ethics Initiatives, UN Global Compact, SA 8000, Stakeholder Theory

JEL Classification: M14, M19

Suggested Citation

Gilbert, Dirk Ulrich and Rasche, Andreas, Opportunities and Problems of Standardized Ethics Initiatives: A Stakeholder Theory Perspective (2008). Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 82, No. 3, pp. 755-773, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1711764

Dirk Ulrich Gilbert (Contact Author)

University of Hamburg ( email )

Allende-Platz 1
Hamburg, 20146

Andreas Rasche

Copenhagen Business School ( email )

Solbjerg Plads 3
Frederiksberg C, DK - 2000

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