Obstacles to Sustainable Global Business. Towards EU Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development

108 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2019 Last revised: 7 Dec 2019

See all articles by Beate Sjåfjell

Beate Sjåfjell

University of Oslo - Faculty of Law

Jukka Mähönen

University of Oslo - Faculty of Law; University of Helsinki - Faculty of Law

Andrew Johnston

Warwick Law School

Jay Cullen

University of York; University of Oslo

Date Written: March 18, 2019


This report is a deliverable from the international research project Sustainable Market Actors for Responsible Trade (SMART, 2016-2020). SMART positions the pursuit of policy coherence for development within the broader context of achieving sustainability, which we define as securing the social foundation for humanity everywhere, now and in the future, while staying within planetary boundaries. This encompasses protecting human rights and other fundamental social rights, ensuring good governance, contributing to securing the economic basis for functioning societies, and doing this in a way that protects the very basis of our existence – living well within the limits of our planet, in the EU terminology.

An important step to achieving sustainability is to understand why global value chains of products sold and bought in Europe continue to be informed by decisions that undermine sustainable development. In this report, we analyse the regulatory complexity faced by the European market actors involved in these global value chains: the businesses, their investors and financiers, the consumers, and public procurers.

We identify what hinders sustainability and reflect on possible options to better ensuring sustainability. With the aim of policy coherence for sustainable development, we identify the incoherencies and the gaps in law and policy. We identify specific barriers and explore how well-intended legislative initiatives and EU-supported international norm developments may be insufficient.

In Section 2 of this report, we analyse what sustainability entails, engaging with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the strongest indicator of a global consensus on the aims of achieving sustainability. Thereafter, in Section 3, we present the market actors we concentrate on in the analysis in this Report. We go in depth into these market actors in Sections 4-10, with Sections 4-8 devoted to the large corporation, and SMEs and social enterprises discussed in Sections 9 and 10, respectively. Section 11 presents our general findings, while Section 12 summaries and concludes with a discussion of what sustainable business and a policy framework for sustainability would look like, and reflects on the way forward.

Suggested Citation

Sjåfjell, Beate and Mähönen, Jukka T and Johnston, Andrew and Cullen, Jay, Obstacles to Sustainable Global Business. Towards EU Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development (March 18, 2019). University of Oslo Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2019-02, Nordic & European Company Law Working Paper No. 19-10, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3354401 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3354401

Beate Sjåfjell (Contact Author)

University of Oslo - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 6706 St Olavsplass
Oslo, 0130

HOME PAGE: http://www.jus.uio.no/ifp/english/people/aca/beatesj/

Jukka T Mähönen

University of Oslo - Faculty of Law ( email )

Karl Johansgt 47
N-0162, Oslo
+4722859534 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.jus.uio.no/ifp/english/people/aca/jukkam/index.html

University of Helsinki - Faculty of Law ( email )

Porthania 5th Floor
P.O. Box 4
Helsinki, FIN-0001 4

Andrew Johnston

Warwick Law School ( email )

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry, West Midlands CV4 8UW
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/people/andrew_r_johnston/

Jay Cullen

University of York ( email )

University of York
York, YO10 5DD
United Kingdom

University of Oslo ( email )

PO Box 6706 St Olavs plass
Oslo, N-0317

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