Faculty Author Type

Current Faculty [Stepan Wood]

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



ISO 26000, International Organization for Standardization, International Labour Organization, organized labour, legitimation, enrollment


This chapter explores the role of organized labour in drafting the ISO 26000 guidance standard on social responsibility (SR) as a case study of the circumstances in which weaker actors can take advantage of transnational business governance interactions (TBGIs) to achieve regulatory outcomes that advance their interests. Organized labour initially opposed the development of an ISO standard on SR and was vastly outnumbered when it joined this project in a defensive posture. Yet it achieved remarkably wide and strong protection for workers in ISO 26000 compared to other leading SR initiatives. Integrating theories of legitimation and regulatory enrolment, I theorize regulator-audience relationships and the circumstances in which one can expect a regulator to acquiesce to a particular audience’s legitimation demands. I argue that organized labour was unlikely on its own to secure ISO’s acquiescence to its legitimation demands, but it succeeded by both proactively leveraging and passively coasting upon the delicate relationship between a transnational regulator that lacked legitimacy and other regulatory resources — ISO — and another actor — the International Labour Organization (ILO) — that could supply those resources. I theorize a triadic strategy in which a regulatory underdog exploits legitimation differentials between a legitimacy-poor regulator and a legitimacy-rich booster to advance its interests, and the booster is doubly enrolled by the regulator (to enhance the regulator’s legitimacy) and the underdog (to boost the underdog’s effectiveness).



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.