Fit for addressing grand challenges? A process model for effective accountability relationships within multi‐stakeholder initiatives in developing countries

Business Ethics, the Environment and Responsibility 30 (3):5-24 (2020)
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Abstract

Business is expected to contribute to grand challenges (GC) such as poverty within their corporate social responsibilities. Multi‐stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) have developed to a popular governance model to address GC. While existing scholarship has discussed the positive and negative aspects of MSIs, we know relatively little about how corporations within MSIs are held accountable. The objective of the study is to analyze the dynamics of accountability relationships between the corporate actor and the accountability forum to conceive a process model for effective accountability relationships in developing countries. We conducted an inductive study which explored the tensions the accountability forum perceives in MSI accountability relationships and the criteria to meet the forum's accountability claims. Our study identified four accountability criteria: transparency, inclusion, procedural fairness, and efficacy. Our main theoretical claim is that considering the four accountability criteria in the process of facilitating, dialoguing, and evaluating allows affected stakeholders to validate and match legitimacy claims with their own expectations, and thus, manage MSIs more effectively. Our contribution to existing scholarship on MSIs in developing countries is that we offer a novel perspective on analyzing the effectiveness of MSIs to address GC through our focus on one element of MSIs––specifically accountability. Beyond academic theorizing, this perspective may well hold value for nongovernmental organizations, policymakers, and business managers as it advances a concept of responsibility based on a set of accountability criteria which have the potential to become a cornerstone for how MSI members can organize to effectively address GC in developing countries.

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