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Officials must understand why and how the public lost confidence in the federal government’s ability to manage financial turmoil. Officials outsourced to private parties responsibility for monitoring and policing the safety-net exposures that were bound to be generated by weaknesses in the securitization process. When the adverse consequences of this imprudent arrangement first emerged, officials claimed for months that the difficulties that short-funded, highly leveraged firms were facing in rolling over debt reflected only a shortage of aggregate liquidity and not individual-firm shortages of economic capital. Then, in September 2008, the president and other officials created an unwise sense of urgency that delays in implementation show to have been greatly exaggerated.
That authorities and financiers violated common-law duties of loyalty, competence, and care they owe to taxpayers indicates a massive incentive breakdown in industry and government. Taxpayers deserve a thorough-going reorientation of: (1) how regulatory agencies report on their regulatory performance and back-room interactions with Congress and the Treasury, and (2) the contract structures and performance measures used by the financial industry and its government overseers.
Special Section Accountability in a Global Economy: The Emergence of International Accountability Standards to Advance Corporate Social Responsibility
This article assesses the proliferation of international accountability standards (IAS) in the recent past. We provide a comprehensive overview about the different types of standards and discuss their role as part of a new institutional infrastructure for corporate responsibility. Based on this, it is argued that IAS can advance corporate responsibility on a global level because they contribute to the closure of some omnipresent governance gaps. IAS also improve the preparedness of an organization to give an explanation and a justification to relevant stakeholders for its judgments, intentions, acts and omissions when appropriately called upon to do so. However, IAS also face a variety of problems impeding their potential to help address social and environmental issues. The contribution of the four articles in this special section is discussed in the context of standards’ problems and opportunities. The article closes by outlining a research agenda to further develop and extend the scholarly debate around IAS.
A common complaint by academics and practitioners is that the application of international accountability standards (IAS) does not lead to significant improvements in an organization’s social responsibility. When organizations espouse their commitment to IAS but do not put forth the effort necessary to operationally enact that commitment, a “credibility cover” is created that perpetuates business as usual. In other words, the legitimacy that organizations gain by formally adopting the standards may shield the organization from closer scrutiny, thus enabling rather than constraining the types of activities the standards were designed to discourage.
There is a lack of research on why certain types of IAS are more prone than others to being decoupled from organizational practices. Applying a neo-institutional perspective to IAS, we theorize that the structural dimensions of the types of standards themselves can increase the likelihood of organizations adopting IAS standards in form but not in function.
The literature on certifiable management standards has not paid sufficient attention to implementation of standard requirements in certified firms. Firms that obtain standard certification to achieve the legitimacy benefits of certification may not implement standard requirements sufficiently to realize the standard’s intended performance outcomes. We argue that such decoupling of implementation from certification threatens the effectiveness of certifiable standards as governance mechanisms for firms’ environmental conduct because standard certification may not accurately signal firms’ superior environmental performance to external stakeholders. Empirical findings based on the ISO 14001 standard at the facility level support this view: Quality of standard implementation affects facilities’ environmental performance, and environmental performance of certified and non-certified facilities does not differ significantly for the overall sample and low-quality implementers, while high-quality implementers have better environmental performance than their non-certified counterparts. We provide recommendations for increasing the effectiveness of governance systems for firm conduct based on certifiable standards.
This paper analyzes how national institutional factors affect the adoption of the international environmental management standard ISO 14001, using a panel of 139 countries from 1996 to 2006. The analysis emphasizes that during the emerging phase of the standard, the potential lack of consensus within the constituents of the national institutional environment concerning the value of a new standard could send mixed signals to firms about the standard. The results show that in the early phase of adoption, regulative and normative forces within the institutional environment can work against each other. Results also show that regulative or coercive forces play a relatively more important role in the early phase of adoption of the standard than in the subsequent phases of diffusion. In the later phases of diffusion of ISO 14001, normative forces, such as the diffusion of other management standards, as well as factors related to trade, play a more important role. Because of the similarities between environmental management standards and corporate social responsibility standards, this study can help identify some of the challenges for diffusion of ISO management standards in the area of social responsibility.
Market-based social governance schemes that establish standards of conduct for producers and traders in international supply chains aim to reduce the negative socio-environmental effects of globalization. While studies have examined how characteristics of social governance schemes promote socially responsible producer behavior, it has not yet been examined how these same characteristics affect consumer behavior. This is a crucial omission, because without consumer demand for socially produced products, the reach of the social benefits is likely to be limited. We develop a comprehensive model that links two characteristics of market-based social governance schemes—(1) stringency and enforcement of requirements, and (2) promotion—to two conditions required for governance schemes to generate significant social benefits: (1) socially responsible behavior of participating firms; and (2) consumer demand for socially produced products which, in turn, expands products produced according to social governance schemes, and thus, the quantity of social benefits. We discuss market-based social governance schemes in the context of fair trade coffee.
Comments on BEQ’s Twentieth Anniversary Forum on New Directions for Business Ethics Research
In 2010, Business Ethics Quarterly published ten articles that considered the potential contributions to business ethics research arising from recent scholarship in a variety of philosophical and social scientific fields (strategic management, political philosophy, restorative justice, international business, legal studies, ethical theory, ethical leadership studies, organization theory, marketing, and corporate governance and finance). Here we offer short responses to those articles by members of Business Ethics Quarterly’s editorial board and editorial team.