Special Issue "Public-Private Partnerships for Sustainable Development"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 October 2018).

Printed Edition Available!
A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Axel Marx
Website
Guest Editor
Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, University of Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
Interests: voluntary sustainability standards; labour rights; global governance; governance through trade and regulatory governance
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) and other private governance instruments (e.g., Fair Trade, Forest Stewardship Council, Fair Wear Foundation, GLOBALGAP) are increasingly regulating global production processes and economic activities. VSS verify the compliance of products or production processes with sustainability standards. The importance of voluntary sustainability standards is now widely recognized. After being operational for more than two decades, they have established themselves as private governance instruments. This recognition is also exemplified by their integration in public regulatory approaches. Governments and international organizations are partnering with voluntary sustainability standards to pursue sustainable development policies. We witness the integration of VSS in regulatory approaches of local and national governments in countries around the world, the integration of VSS in trade policies, the emergence of public–private initiatives to govern global supply chains, and the inclusion of private initiatives in experimentalist governance regimes. This Special Issue seeks to bring together research on the interface between private and public governance. We welcome contributions which analyze specific case studies on the emergence and development of these private–public interactions, the design of public–private governance, the effectiveness of these governance arrangements, and critical perspectives on the possibilities and limitations of such public–private forms of governance. We welcome multi-disciplinary perspectives including contributions from economics, political science, law, sociology, geography, and anthropology. Papers selected for this Special Issue are subject to a peer review procedure with the aim of rapid and wide dissemination of research results, developments, and applications.

Dr. Axel Marx
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • sustainable development
  • regulatory governance
  • public–private governance
  • voluntary sustainability standards
  • effectiveness, institutional design

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
Public-Private Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Exploring Their Design and Its Impact on Effectiveness
Sustainability 2019, 11(4), 1087; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11041087 - 19 Feb 2019
Cited by 10
Abstract
Public-private partnerships for sustainable development have been in operation for several decades from the local to the international level [...] Full article

Research

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Open AccessArticle
Toward Sustainable Development? A Bibliometric Analysis of PPP-Related Policies in China between 1980 and 2017
Sustainability 2019, 11(1), 142; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11010142 - 28 Dec 2018
Cited by 15
Abstract
This article aims to fill the void in the literature regarding the sustainable development of public–private partnerships (PPPs) by answering the following research questions: (1) Between 1980 and 2017, what were the PPP-related policy priorities in the three different historical phases of the [...] Read more.
This article aims to fill the void in the literature regarding the sustainable development of public–private partnerships (PPPs) by answering the following research questions: (1) Between 1980 and 2017, what were the PPP-related policy priorities in the three different historical phases of the Chinese national agenda that we have identified herein? (2) Have the PPP-related policies shown a pattern of moving toward sustainable development, and if so, to what extent? Against a criteria framework of evaluating how PPP-related policies could contribute to sustainable development, this article conducted a quantitative bibliometric analysis of 299 PPP-related policy documents issued by the Chinese central government between 1980 and 2017. By visualizing the networks of policy keywords and policy-issuing departments, this article identified the PPP-related policy priorities in the following three distinct historical phases: Phase I (1980–1997), the encouragement of foreign investment in the public infrastructure; Phase II (1998–2008), the encouragement of the marketization of the urban public utilities; and Phase III (2009–2017), the intensive institutionalization and extensive application of PPPs for solving the local debt problem. Corresponding to the abovementioned policy priorities, this article found that the pattern of PPP-related policies has shifted from the total absence of sustainable development policies in Phase I, to a few sustainable development policy attempts in Phase II, and finally, to a tendency toward policies favoring sustainable development in Phase III. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Public and Private Governance in Interaction: Changing Interpretations of Sovereignty in the Field of Sustainable Palm Oil
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4811; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124811 - 17 Dec 2018
Cited by 6
Abstract
Since the 1990s, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and businesses have gained prominence as architects of new forms of transnational governance creating Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS). The legitimacy and effectiveness of VSS are dependent on interactions with public authorities and regulation. While studies suggest that [...] Read more.
Since the 1990s, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and businesses have gained prominence as architects of new forms of transnational governance creating Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS). The legitimacy and effectiveness of VSS are dependent on interactions with public authorities and regulation. While studies suggest that the (perceived) gain or loss of sovereignty by a state shapes public–private interactions, we have little understanding on how states use or interpret sovereignty in their interactions with VSS. In this paper, we explore what interpretations of sovereignty are used by states at different ends of global value chains in interactions with VSS. Based on a comparative and longitudinal study of interactions of Indonesian and Dutch state actors with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, we conclude that states strategically use different and changing notions of sovereignty to control the policy and debate regarding sustainable palm oil. When interactions between public and private governance are coordinative in nature, notions of interdependent sovereignty are used. However, when interactions are competitive, domestic and Westphalian notions of sovereignty are used. Our results show conflicting interpretations and usages of sovereignty by different states, which might negatively impact the regulatory capacity within an issue field to address sustainability issues. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Biodiversity Protection through Networks of Voluntary Sustainability Standard Organizations?
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4379; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124379 - 23 Nov 2018
Abstract
This paper explores the potential for voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) organizations to contribute to policy-making on biodiversity protection by examining their biodiversity policies, total standard compliant area, proximity to biodiversity hotspots, and the networks and partnerships they have in place that can support [...] Read more.
This paper explores the potential for voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) organizations to contribute to policy-making on biodiversity protection by examining their biodiversity policies, total standard compliant area, proximity to biodiversity hotspots, and the networks and partnerships they have in place that can support policy-making on biodiversity protection. The analysis undertaken is based on Social Network Analysis data, in combination with information from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) Standards and Biodiversity Review and the International Trade Centre (ITC) Standards Map on the focus and operation of VSS organizations. The significance of agriculture-focused private governance for global biodiversity policy and their relationship towards other forms of nongovernmental, governmental, and inter-governmental biodiversity policy are examined and described. We argue that, at present, a number of key agriculture-focused VSS organizations are important policy actors to address biodiversity because of their elaborate biodiversity policies, total compliant areas, and proximity to biodiversity hotspots. However, at present, most of these VSS organizations have relatively few ties with relevant governmental and inter-governmental biodiversity policymakers. The actor composition of their inter-organizational networks currently reflects a focus on nongovernmental rather than governmental organizations while substantively they focus more on development than on environmental protection issues. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Integrating Voluntary Sustainability Standards in Trade Policy: The Case of the European Union’s GSP Scheme
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4364; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124364 - 23 Nov 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
Trade policy is increasingly being used as a policy instrument to pursue non-trade objectives such as environmental protection or the protection of labour rights. A key example is the European Union’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP). The current approach is being confronted with [...] Read more.
Trade policy is increasingly being used as a policy instrument to pursue non-trade objectives such as environmental protection or the protection of labour rights. A key example is the European Union’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP). The current approach is being confronted with significant challenges. How these challenges can be addressed is currently subject to debate, and increased attention is turning to the role that private governance mechanisms can play in this context. This paper will look into the potential role that Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) can play. The paper will analyse and assess the complementarity between VSS and EU GSP, and it contributes to the literature on interactions between private and public policy-making for sustainability. The main research question focuses on what role VSS can play in the European Union’s GSP scheme. To answer the question, the paper develops two models by which VSS can be integrated in EU GSP (a mandatory and a voluntary approach). The study is based on interviews with key experts from different stakeholder groups and an analysis of the ITC standards map database. The paper shows that the integration of VSS in EU GSP, as outlined in the two models, is confronted with several challenges. These challenges are discussed, and alternatives are explored. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Trade Unions in Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives: What Shapes Their Participation?
Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 4295; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10114295 - 20 Nov 2018
Cited by 4
Abstract
There is a growing concern about the extent to which multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs), designed to improve social and environmental sustainability in global supply chains, give a meaningful voice to less powerful stakeholders. Trade unions are one particular civil society group whose participation in [...] Read more.
There is a growing concern about the extent to which multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs), designed to improve social and environmental sustainability in global supply chains, give a meaningful voice to less powerful stakeholders. Trade unions are one particular civil society group whose participation in MSIs has received little scholarly attention so far. The objective of this paper is to examine the determinants that enable and constrain trade union participation in MSIs. Based on interviews, focus groups, observations and document analysis we determine local trade union participation in three MSIs, operating at company, national and transnational level respectively, in the Costa Rican pineapple industry. To explain the limited encountered trade union participation, an analytical framework is developed combining structural and agency dimensions, namely the MSI design and trade union’s power resources. The findings show shortcomings in the representativeness, procedural fairness and consensual orientation in the design and implementation of the MSIs. These are, however, not sufficient to explain weak trade union participation as trade union power resources also have an influence. Strong network embeddedness and improved infrastructural resources had a positive effect, whereas the lack of internal solidarity and unfavourable narrative resources constrained the unions’ participation. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Impacts of Cocoa Sustainability Initiatives in West Africa
Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 4249; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10114249 - 17 Nov 2018
Cited by 8
Abstract
To tackle the multiple challenges facing the cocoa sector, voluntary sustainability standards and corporate initiatives, largely focusing on farm and farmer group scale, are often implemented by public–private–civil society partnerships of stakeholders further in the value chain. This paper looks at the social, [...] Read more.
To tackle the multiple challenges facing the cocoa sector, voluntary sustainability standards and corporate initiatives, largely focusing on farm and farmer group scale, are often implemented by public–private–civil society partnerships of stakeholders further in the value chain. This paper looks at the social, economic, and environmental effects of such initiatives, based on empirical evidence from large-scale, mixed-method studies using a suite of socioeconomic, agronomic, and environmental indicators to compare the situation of UTZ certified with non-certified farmers in 2012 and 2015 in Ghana, and 2013 and 2017 in Ivory Coast. The results show that, on average, outcomes are mixed and generally modest. However, significant cocoa productivity and income increases were experienced by certified farmers receiving a full package of services. However, the type and intensity of services has changed over time, decreasing for half of the farmers, and productivity and income increases are levelling off. These findings suggest that whilst partnerships have created new governance arrangements with an increased focus on sustainable value chains, initiatives which result in a living income and optimise productivity, whilst limiting environmental impacts, require sectoral transformation, continued partnerships, plus a range of other policy instruments to address the persistent, wicked problems in cocoa production. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Signalling Responsibility? Applying Signalling Theory to the ISO 26000 Standard for Social Responsibility
Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 4172; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10114172 - 13 Nov 2018
Cited by 8
Abstract
Many global challenges cannot be addressed by one single actor alone. Achieving sustainability requires governance by state and non-state market actors to jointly realise public values and corporate goals. As a form of public–private governance, voluntary standards involving governments, non-governmental organisations and companies [...] Read more.
Many global challenges cannot be addressed by one single actor alone. Achieving sustainability requires governance by state and non-state market actors to jointly realise public values and corporate goals. As a form of public–private governance, voluntary standards involving governments, non-governmental organisations and companies have gained much traction in recent years and have been in the limelight of public authorities and policymakers. From a firm perspective, sustainability standards can be a way to demonstrate that they engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) in a credible way. To capitalise on their CSR activities, firms need to ensure their stakeholders are able to recognise and assess their CSR quality. However, because the relative observability of CSR is low and since CSR is a contested concept, information asymmetries in firm–stakeholder relationships arise. Adopting CSR standards and using these as signalling devices is a strategy for firms to reduce these information asymmetries, by revealing their true CSR quality. Against this background, this article investigates the voluntary ISO 26000 standard for social responsibility as a form of public-private governance and contends that, despite its objectives, this standard suffers from severe signalling problems. Applying signalling theory to the ISO 26000 standard, this article takes a critical stance towards this standard and argues that firms adhering to this standard may actually emit signals that compromise rather than enhance stakeholders’ ability to identify and interpret firms’ underlying CSR quality. Consequently, the article discusses the findings in the context of public-private governance, suggests a specification of signalling theory and identifies avenues for future research. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Investigating the Sustainability Performance of PPP-Type Infrastructure Projects: A Case of China
Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 4162; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10114162 - 12 Nov 2018
Cited by 8
Abstract
In China, the demand for public infrastructure projects is high due to the acceleration of urbanization and the rapid growth of the economy in recent years. Infrastructures are mainly large scale, so local governments have difficulty in independently completing financing work. In this [...] Read more.
In China, the demand for public infrastructure projects is high due to the acceleration of urbanization and the rapid growth of the economy in recent years. Infrastructures are mainly large scale, so local governments have difficulty in independently completing financing work. In this context, public sectors often seek cooperation from private sectors, in which public–private partnership (PPP) is increasingly common. Although numerous studies have concentrated on sustainable development, the unsustainability performances of infrastructures are often reported on various media. Furthermore, studies on the sustainability performances of PPP-type infrastructure (PTI) projects are few from the perspective of private sectors’ behaviors. In this study, we adopted the modified theory of planned behavior and the structure equation model and conducted a questionnaire survey with 258 respondents for analyzing the sustainable behaviors of private sectors. Results indicated that behavioral attitude, perceived behavioral control, and subjective norm interact significantly. They have direct positive effects on behavioral intention and then indirectly influence actual behavior through this intention. Actual sustainable behaviors of private sectors have significantly positive effects on the sustainable development of cities. We offer theoretical and managerial implications for public and private sectors on the basis of the findings to ensure and promote the sustainability performances of PTI projects. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Drivers for Public–Private Partnerships in Sustainable Natural Resource Management—Lessons from the Swedish Mountain Region
Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 3914; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10113914 - 28 Oct 2018
Cited by 6
Abstract
Sweden’s mountain areas are sensitive ecosystems that are used by a wide range of stakeholders, and this raises multiple sustainability concerns. Collaborative governance solutions are becoming increasingly common in such situations to promote more sustainable practices. While the Swedish mountain area is indeed [...] Read more.
Sweden’s mountain areas are sensitive ecosystems that are used by a wide range of stakeholders, and this raises multiple sustainability concerns. Collaborative governance solutions are becoming increasingly common in such situations to promote more sustainable practices. While the Swedish mountain area is indeed a hot spot for different forms of public–private partnerships (PPPs) related to natural resources management, as yet, little is known about the shaping of participation, leadership, and implementation of these processes. What are the drivers for implementing collaborative environmental partnerships, do the drivers differ, and if so, how? What role does the specific context play in the design of these PPPs? Are the PPPs useful, and if so, for what? To analyze those issues, we conducted 38 semi-structured interviews with project leaders from a sample randomly selected from a database of 245 public–private collaborative projects in the Swedish mountains. Our results indicate that consequential incentives in the form of funding and previous successful collaborations seem to be the major drivers for such partnerships. A critical discussion of the possibilities and limitations of public–private forms of governance in rural mountain areas adds to the ongoing debate on the performance of environmental PPPs in a regional context. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Influence of Relational Norms on User Interests in PPP Projects: Mediating Effect of Project Performance
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 2027; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10062027 - 15 Jun 2018
Cited by 2
Abstract
Protecting user interests is one of the most important public sector responsibilities in PPP (public-private partnership) projects. However, user interests could be damaged by poor project performance. Therefore, this study focuses on the protection of user interests in PPP projects and analyzes the [...] Read more.
Protecting user interests is one of the most important public sector responsibilities in PPP (public-private partnership) projects. However, user interests could be damaged by poor project performance. Therefore, this study focuses on the protection of user interests in PPP projects and analyzes the relationships among relational norms, project performance, and user interests in PPP projects. A questionnaire survey is conducted to collect the opinions of professionals from the public sector and private sector. Upon analyzing 109 valid questionnaires, the results demonstrate that the relational norms between the public sector and private sector have a positive effect on project performance, and project performance has a positive relationship on user interests. Moreover, project performance has a positive mediating effect on the relationships between relational norms and user interests. This finding can provide a theoretical foundation and suggest practical measures to help the public sector better protect user interests in PPP projects. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
A Derivation of Factors Influencing the Successful Integration of Corporate Volunteers into Public Flood Disaster Inquiry and Notification Systems
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1973; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061973 - 12 Jun 2018
Cited by 9
Abstract
Flood hazards have become increasingly common and serious over the last few centuries. Volunteers can observe instant flood information in their local environment, which presents a great opportunity to gather flood information. The information provided by individual volunteers is too much for them [...] Read more.
Flood hazards have become increasingly common and serious over the last few centuries. Volunteers can observe instant flood information in their local environment, which presents a great opportunity to gather flood information. The information provided by individual volunteers is too much for them to truly understand. Corporate volunteers can offer more accurate and truthful information due to their understanding of the roles and requirements of specific tasks. Past studies of factors influencing the success of corporate volunteers in flood disaster are limited. Thus, this research aims to derive the factors that enable corporate volunteers to successfully integrate the flood information to help reduce the number of injuries and deaths being caused by flood disasters. This research used the information success model and the public-private partnership (PPP) model to develop an analytic framework. The nature of flood disaster management problems is inherently complex, time-bound, and multifaceted. Therefore, we proposed a novel hybrid multi-criteria decision-making (MCDM) model to address the key influence factors and the cause-effect relationships between factors. An empirical study in Taiwanese public flood disaster inquiry and notification systems was used to verify the effectiveness of the proposed methodology. The research results can serve as guidelines for improving the government’s policies and the public sector in the context of corporate volunteer involvement in flood disaster inquiry and notification and in relation to other natural and manmade disasters. Full article
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