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The Challenge of Implementing Voluntary Sustainability Standards: A Dynamic Framework on the Tension between Adherence and Adaptation

Nava, L. ORCID: 0000-0001-7579-6398 & Tampe, M. (2022). The Challenge of Implementing Voluntary Sustainability Standards: A Dynamic Framework on the Tension between Adherence and Adaptation. Business Ethics Quarterly, doi: 10.1017/beq.2022.1

Abstract

Voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) aim to encourage ethical behaviors of organizations, yet studies show that many VSS adopters do not live up to these promises. Existing literature typically attributes the reason for this ineffectiveness to either policy–practice decoupling, owing to a lack of adhering to VSS requirements, or means–ends decoupling, owing to a lack of adapting to the local context. However, little is known about how the contradictory needs of adherence and adaptation evolve throughout VSS implementation. Building on the knowledge transfer literature, we develop a dynamic conceptual framework that distinguishes two phases of VSS implementation. Specifically, we theorize how tensions emerge in the transition between phases since the first phase primarily calls for adherence, whereas the second calls for adaptation. Applying this framework, we develop propositions to illustrate how these tensions relate to different VSS characteristics: stringency, enforcement, and scope. The article concludes with implications and future research directions for VSS scholarship.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Society for Business Ethics
Publisher Keywords: voluntary sustainability standards, decoupling, organizational tensions, knowledge transfer, dynamic perspective
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
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