Globalization creates governance challenges that are testing the limits of state-based systems for business regulation. The world's largest companies are increasingly looking to voluntary, multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) to help close this governance gap.
MSIs now exist in industries ranging from telecommunications to apparel to private security contracting. Typically these initiatives form when industries are facing moments of crisis in which corporations are under pressure to respond to public human rights allegations that no actor alone can effectively address. Company and civil society representatives with industry expertise typically negotiate the terms and structures of MSIs rather than people with expertise about MSIs broadly. As a result, MSIs tend not to benefit from the lessons of their peers.
We are trying to change this. Several members of our senior staff have helped establish and remain involved with MSIs in a range of industries. From these experiences, we have identified a set of core characteristics that we believe are necessary for MSIs to effectively perform their governance function. These include a mandate to develop industry-specific human rights standards, metrics and benchmarks for tracking adherence to these standards, and processes for sanctioning non-compliance and providing remedy when needed.
We are working to amplify the best approaches currently employed by MSIs through active membership in promising initiatives (including the Fair Labor Association and the International Code of Conduct Association), on-going scholarship, and regular convenings.