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Accountability in transnational governance: The partial organization of voluntary sustainability standards in long‐term account‐giving

Nadine Arnold

Regulation & Governance, 2022, vol. 16, issue 2, 375-391

Abstract: Transnational sustainability governance often builds upon standards. Considering that the rise of transnational governance has blurred accountability relations, this article interrogates how and with what consequences a standards development organization (SDO) mobilizes standards for the sake of accountability. Following a partial organization perspective, standards are conceptualized as combinations of organizational elements that enhance accountability both retrospectively and prospectively. A historical case study of the Fairtrade program details the argument and shows how the SDO modified standards aligned with institutional expectations. As the alteration of one organizational element led to a chain reaction, the standards unintentionally transformed from an organizationally lenient tool into a sophisticated blend of organizational elements. Thus, the standards strengthened the accountability of those being governed, while accountability to the public was enhanced by changes in the organizational structure of the SDO. The article contributes to a nuanced understanding of the link between accountability and standards, highlighting their contingency and context dependency.

Date: 2022
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Handle: RePEc:wly:reggov:v:16:y:2022:i:2:p:375-391