Navigating Input and Output Legitimacy in Multi-stakeholder Initiatives: Institutional Stewards at Work

Mikkel Kruuse*, Kasper Reming Tangbæk, Kristjan Jespersen, Caleb Gallemore

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) are a form of private governance sometimes used to manage the social and environmental impacts of supply chains. We argue that there is a potential tension between input and output legitimacy in MSIs. Input legitimacy requires facilitating representation from a wide range of organizations with heterogeneous interests. This work, however, faces collective action problems that could lead to limited ambitions, lowering output legitimacy. We find that, under the right conditions a relatively small group of motivated actors, who we call institutional stewards, may be willing to undertake the cost and labor of building and maintaining the MSI. This can help reconcile the tension between input and output legitimacy in a formal sense, though it also results in inequalities in power. We test this claim using a case study of organizations’ activities in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). We find that a small group of founding members—and other members of long tenure—account for a disproportionate level of activity in the organization.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6621
JournalSustainability
Volume11
Issue number23
Number of pages27
ISSN2071-1050
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

Keywords

  • Palm oil
  • Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
  • Institutional work
  • Institutional stewards
  • Multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs)
  • Legitimacy
  • Sustainability
  • Certification

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