Sustainability, Limitations of Law, and the Changing Relationship between Companies and NGOs

Kees Bastmeijer, Jonathan Verschuuren

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientific


    In this article, we sketch the possible consequences of the changing relationships between the government, companies, and NGOs in addressing various transboundary sustainability issues for national and international law. The reasons for dialogue and collaboration with NGOs go beyond the issue of "reputation management." We show that, in particular with regard to transboundary sustainability issues, the limitations of national and international law might further stimulate active relationships between companies and NGOs. Although we think that these limitations are often presented as too absolute, it is clear that the issues are too complex to be solved by government regulation alone. We show that the relationships between companies and NGOs may play an important role in respect of all elements of the regulatory chain: norm-setting, implementation, monitoring and enforcement, and dispute resolution. In some cases, NGOs and companies may decide to start partnerships: the influence of NGOs in such partnerships is essential. In other cases, NGOs may decide to keep a distance in order not to complicate their watchdog role. An interesting question for further research would be whether and how NGOs can keep this watchdog role within partnerships with companies. If the developments discussed in our paper continue, multinational corporations and NGOs may have to perform tasks that are usually performed by large bureaucratic governmental organizations, staffed with thousands of civil servants. Many NGOs will not have sufficient financial capacity and personnel to play this role. Parallel to its legislative role discussed above, the government should consider this problem as well. Once it is clear that the role of States is reduced in favor of a more active role of NGOs and multinational corporations, it seems almost inevitable that in the future governments offer NGOs financial and practical assistance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationTowards Better Regulation, Governance and Accountability
    Subtitle of host publicationGlobal Perspectives from Corportations and Civil Society
    EditorsI. Demirag
    PublisherGreenleaf Publishing
    Number of pages16
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


    • corporate social responsibility
    • NGOs


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