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Activism for Corporate Responsibility: Conceptualizing Private Regulation Opportunity Structures


  • Sébastien Mena
  • Daniel Waeger


In this article, we examine how private regulatory initiatives (PRIs) – which define standards for corporate responsibility (CR) issues and sometimes monitor their application by firms – create opportunities and constraints for activist groups aiming to push firms towards more stringent CR activities. Drawing on social movement theory, we conceptualize how private regulation opportunity structures affect such CR-based activist groups' targets and tactics at both the firm and field levels. At the field level, we argue that both radical and reformative activist groups direct most of their time and resources towards PRIs with comparatively more stringent standards. At the firm level, while radical activist groups are likely to target firms participating in more stringent PRIs, reformative activist groups target firms participating in less stringent PRIs, or those that do not participate in PRIs at all. When facing unfavourable opportunity structures, CR-based activist groups tend either to advocate the creation of new PRIs or to shift their activities to pressure other focal points. This article contributes to moving beyond extant literature's emphasis of PRIs as settlements of contentious firm–activist interactions towards also viewing them as starting points for activist groups aiming to push firms towards a more substantive CR engagement.

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  • Sébastien Mena & Daniel Waeger, 2014. "Activism for Corporate Responsibility: Conceptualizing Private Regulation Opportunity Structures," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(7), pages 1091-1117, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:51:y:2014:i:7:p:1091-1117

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Jodi L. Short & Michael W. Toffel & Andrea R. Hugill, 2016. "Code Contingencies: Designing Monitoring Regimes to Promote Improvement in Supply Chain Working Conditions," Harvard Business School Working Papers 17-001, Harvard Business School, revised Mar 2019.
    2. repec:bla:jomstd:v:54:y:2017:i:2:p:182-208 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:worbus:v:53:y:2018:i:1:p:63-74 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. David Levy & Juliane Reinecke & Stephan Manning, 2016. "The Political Dynamics of Sustainable Coffee: Contested Value Regimes and the Transformation of Sustainability," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(3), pages 364-401, May.
    5. Jean-Pascal Gond & Luciano Barin Cruz & Emmanuel Raufflet & Mathieu Charron, 2016. "To Frack or Not to Frack? The Interaction of Justification and Power in a Sustainability Controversy," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(3), pages 330-363, May.

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