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Sustainability governance

Book by Dr Julia Grimm, a Research Associate at Cambridge Judge Business School, wins Best Book Award of the Social Issues in Management Division of the Academy of Management. 

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A book on private governance for sustainability by Dr Julia Grimm, Research Associate in the Organisational Theory & Information Systems subject group at Cambridge Judge Business School, won the ‘2020 SIM Best Book Award’ of the Social Issues in Management Division at the 80th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management. 

Dr Julia Grimm

The book, published last year by the Nomos Publishing House, is entitled Private Governance as an Institutional Response to Wicked ProblemsA Study of the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles. 

The book grew out of Julia’s dissertation project at the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany. She was a Postdoctoral Researcher at VU Amsterdam before joining Cambridge Judge Business School in October last year. Her research focuses on transnational private governance institutions, supply chain sustainability, organisational culture, frames and legitimacy. 

Julia is now working with Jennifer Howard-Grenville, Diageo Professor in Organisation Studies at Cambridge Judge, on a corporate-funded project on sustainability practices in the context of global supply chains. 

Julia’s book, which uses an inductive process study of the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles, outlines how organisations can collectively and voluntarily impose regulation onto themselves in order to effect meaningful change through multi-stakeholder initiatives. Julia discusses how such private governance institutions can emerge and why organisations are willing to engage with them. 

Some of the key findings

  • People setting up multi-stakeholder initiatives need to consider both incentive-based and norm-based conditions in the establishment process of private governance institutions. While incentive-based conditions mostly play a role in the beginning, such norm-based conditions come into play later on. 
  • The influence that norm-based conditions can have on the willingness of organisational decision-makers to join such agreements is tied to what is perceived ‘possible’ by all involved actors, so such cooperation is an inherently dynamic construct. 
  • Co-constructed ‘possibility frames’ which allow for cooperation are highly fragile and can collapse if stabilising criteria such as organisational unity and the continuity of interpersonal relationships are not applied. 

The findings of Julia’s book generate in-depth insights into the formation and maintenance of private governance institutions as an important mechanism to tackle the world’s ‘wicked’ problems in advancing social and environmental sustainability.