Varieties of multi-stakeholder governance: selecting legitimation strategies in transnational sustainability politics
Multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) are often referred to as the ‘gold standard’ of private governance. However, existing MSIs vary strongly in their institutional designs and the ways in which they use inclusiveness, procedural fairness and, expert-based strategies to create legitimacy for their rules. This article investigates these institutional choices. It reviews arguments about demand from legitimacy-granting audiences, isomorphic pressures, and the role played by institutional entrepreneurs, and intergroup bargaining. It explores these mechanisms in an empirical investigation of the formation of three MSIs in the field of sustainable agriculture. Its findings advance our understanding of the conditions under which MSIs adhere or depart from normative ideals of democratic governance.