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Luc Fransen

University of Amsterdam

Luc Fransen is Associate Professor of International Relations and member of the Political Economy and Transnational Governance (PETGOV) Research Group as well as the Transnational Configurations, Conflict and Governance Research Group. He received his PhD in Social Sciences at the University of Amsterdam in 2010 and has held research and teaching positions at the European University Institute, the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS), Yale University, Leiden University and the Amsterdam Institute for International Development. His research interests include the politics of Corporate Social Responsibility, sustainable development in global supply chains, private standard-setting, transnational civil society activism and international organizations.
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publication
Towards a Smart Mix 2.0 - Harnessing Regulatory Heterogeneity for Sustainable Global Supply Chains

Over the past three decades, efforts to address human rights and environmental risks in global supply chains have spurred a plethora of industry self-regulation, third-party certification schemes, voluntary due diligence guidelines, and mandatory supply chain regulations. The resulting heterogeneity of initiatives, instruments, and standards has been subject to much debate, with academics and policymakers calling for a “smart mix” of measures to strengthen the governance of transnational business conduct. In addition to creating public-private complementarities, this includes recent calls for a better interplay of governance actors located at the demand side and supply side of global supply chains, often linked to the “North” and the “South” of the world economy. In this paper, we explore the opportunities and challenges of harnessing regulatory heterogeneity for sustainable supply chains through such a “smart mix 2.0”. On a conceptual level, we show how public regulators can improve the design, uptake, and compliance with private sustainability standards through information provision, capacity building, economic incentives, and legal recognition. Conversely, private sustainability standards may compensate for some of the weaknesses of public regulation by offering more speedy, flexible, and less bureaucratic implementation. Moreover, bringing Southern actors into the governance mix promises to create regulatory regimes that are more context-sensitive, equitable, inclusive, and comprehensive in their coverage. However, there are also major challenges. This includes overly optimistic assumptions in the smart mix literature about the prospect of enabling and sustaining complementary and progress-oriented patterns of governance interactions between actors with often diverging interests, worldviews, and power resources. In our critique of the concept, we bring these issues to the fore, thereby advancing an analytical perspective that is more attuned to the political dimensions of smart governance mixes. In a case study of forest-risk supply chains (palm oil), we explore these issues empirically. We canvass the increasing regulatory heterogeneity and evolving nature of “smart mix politics” in this supply chain setting, illustrating that the road towards integrating governance measures across sectors and geographies is not a well-paved highway, but a winding road with many potholes, construction sites, and the occasional U-turn.

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publication
The multiplicity of international corporate social responsibility standards

Purpose This paper aims to examine the multiplicity of corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards, explaining its nature, dynamics and implications for multinational enterprises (MNEs) and international business (IB), especially in the context of CSR and global value chain (GVC) governance. Design/methodology/approach This paper leverages insights from the literature in political science, policy, regulation, governance and IB; from the own earlier work; and from an inventory of CSR standards across a range of sectors and products. Findings This analysis’ more nuanced approach to CSR standard multiplicity helps distinguish the different categories of standards; uncovers the existence of different types of standard multiplicity; and highlights complex trends in their evolution over time, discussing implications for the various firms targeted by, or involved in, these initiatives, and for CSR and GVC governance research. Research limitations/implications This paper opens many avenues for future research on CSR multiplicity and its consequences; on lead firms governing GVCs from an IB perspective; and on institutional and market complexity. Practical implications By providing overviews and classifications, this paper helps clarify CSR standards as “new regulators” and “instruments” for actors in business, society and government. Originality/value This paper contributes by filling gaps in different existing literatures concerning standard multiplicity. It also specifically adds a new perspective to the IB literature, which thus far has not fully incorporated the complexity and dynamics of CSR standard multiplicity in examining GVCs and MNE strategy and policy.

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publication
Uncovering missing links in global value chain research – and implications for corporate social responsibility and international business

Purpose Amidst burgeoning attention for global value chains (GVCs) in international business (IB), this paper aims to identify a clear “missing link” in this literature and discusses implications for research and corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy-making and implementation. Design/methodology/approach The paper combines an overview of relevant literature from different (sub)disciplinary fields, with insights from practitioner and expert interviews and secondary data. Findings Because IB GVC research stems from a focus on lead firms and their producing suppliers, it lacks attention for intermediary actors that may significantly impact the organization of production in general, and firms’ CSR commitments in particular. Import intermediaries are often “hidden” in GVCs. This paper indicates the emergence of GVC parallelism with “frontstage” chains managed by lead firms and increasingly exposed to public scrutiny following calls for transparency and CSR, and “backstage” ones in which buyers and intermediaries operate more opaquely. Practical implications This study points at salient yet little known practices and actors that influence the organization of production and the implementation of CSR policies in various ways, and therefore offers ground for reflection on the design of proper supply chain and CSR policies. Originality/value This study exposes a hitherto neglected category of actors in GVCs and broader IB research and discusses implications, relevance and areas for further investigation. An illustrative example explicates the importance of carefully considering this “missing link”. The study emphasizes the need for further study into ways in which both lead firms and intermediaries deal with contradicting demands of implementing CSR policies and offering competitive prices with short lead times.

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publication
Tempering Transnational Advocacy? The Effect of Repression and Regulatory Restriction on Transnational NGO Collaborations

This paper examines through qualitative study the effect of government regulatory restriction and repression on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaging in transnational advocacy. The focus is on NGO’s advocacy activities, in the realm of human rights, environment, labor and development in particular, using illustrations from Bangladesh and Zambia. It finds that next to some NGOs disbanding and moving towards service activities, many NGOs shift in terms of substantive advocacy and form of organizational collaboration. To continue cross-border interactions with their foreign partners, many NGOs adjust to circumvent or compensate for restrictions and repression. Because of this, transnational advocacy can be said to continue, but repression and restrictions have significant substantive and organizational effects for the collaborations studied, and cross-border NGO collaborations in our sample are increasingly fragile and their advocacy more tempered.

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