The Multiplicity of International Corporate Social Responsibility Standards: Implications for Global Value Chain Governance

Multinational Business Review, 2019

DOI: 10.1108/MBR-08-2019-0083

30 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2019

See all articles by Luc Fransen

Luc Fransen

University of Amsterdam

Ans Kolk

University of Amsterdam Business School

Miguel Rivera-Santos

Babson College

Date Written: October 24, 2019


Purpose: This paper examines the multiplicity of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) standards, explaining its nature, dynamics, and implications for Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) and International Business (IB), especially in the context of CSR and global value chain (GVC) governance.

Design/Methodology/Approach: This paper leverages insights from the literature in political science, policy, regulation, governance, and IB; from our own earlier work; and from an inventory of CSR standards across a range of sectors and products.

Findings: This analysis’ more nuanced approach to CSR standard multiplicity helps distinguish the different categories of standards; uncovers the existence of different types of standard multiplicity; and highlights complex trends in their evolution over time, discussing implications for the various firms targeted by, or involved in, these initiatives, and for CSR and GVC governance research.

Research Limitations/Implications: This paper opens many avenues for future research on CSR multiplicity and its consequences; on lead firms governing GVCs from an IB perspective; and on institutional and market complexity.

Practical/Societal Implications: By providing overviews and classifications, this paper helps clarify CSR standards as “new regulators” and “instruments” for actors in business, society and government.

Originality/Value: This paper contributes by filling gaps in different existing literatures concerning standard multiplicity. It also specifically adds a new perspective to the IB literature, which thus far has not fully incorporated the complexity and dynamics of CSR standard multiplicity in examining GVCs and MNE strategy and policy.

Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, Standards, CSR Standards, Governance, International Business, Global Value Chains, Multinational Enterprises, Multinationals, Business, Code of Conduct, Corporate Responsibility, Global Governance, International

JEL Classification: D02, D21, D22, F23, F53, F55, F64, F66, G38, L1, L2, M1, M14, O19

Suggested Citation

Fransen, Luc and Kolk, Ans and Rivera-Santos, Miguel, The Multiplicity of International Corporate Social Responsibility Standards: Implications for Global Value Chain Governance (October 24, 2019). Multinational Business Review, 2019, DOI: 10.1108/MBR-08-2019-0083, Available at SSRN:

Luc Fransen

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Amsterdam, 1012 CX

Ans Kolk (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam Business School ( email )

Plantage Muidergracht 12
Amsterdam, 1018 TV
+31 20 525 4289 (Phone)
+31 20 525 5281 (Fax)


Miguel Rivera-Santos

Babson College ( email )

Babson Park, MA 02157
United States
781-239-5325 (Phone)

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