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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: July 2019

Part 1 - Rules, Sanctions, Membership

  • Edited by Göran Ahrne, Uppsala Universitet, Sweden, Nils Brunsson, Uppsala Universitet, Sweden
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • pp 37-112


In this chapter we discuss standards as forms of partial organization. Standards are defined as decided rules for common and voluntary use. Taking the example of CSR and corporate governance standards, we show that the degree of partiality of standards can vary widely – ranging from a single element of organization, i.e. decided rules, to all five elements of organization, i.e. decided rules, hierarchies, membership, monitoring and sanctioning. We demonstrate that in some cases partiality is the result of restrictions in the design of standards, while in other cases it is the result of an explicit choice. We also demonstrate that the degree of partiality of standards can change over time, as there are often pressures for standards to adopt additional organizational elements. Furthermore, we discuss the dispersed nature of many standards, showing how different actors often provide different organizational elements of standards without any central coordination. We close with an outline of an agenda for future research.