Call for papers: Corporate Sustainability Leadership? The Nordics and California

We invite proposals for papers to be presented at a two-day conference at the University of California, Berkeley, on 21 and 22 March 2019. The aim of the conference is to bring together scholars, practitioners, policy-makers and students in an interactive event to explore the prerequisites for achieving corporate sustainability through analysis of best practice regions around the world.

The conference will focus on the Nordic region and California – two regions renowned for demonstrating global corporate sustainability leadership – to undertake a comparative analysis of theories, policies and practice between these geographically distant yet similar regions.  Through a greater understanding of commonalities and differences between these contexts, we intend to identify a suite of best practices that may serve as building blocks for global corporate sustainability with potential for application throughout the world. The aim is to identify corporate governance models for sustainability necessary to achieve the transition from current efforts of corporate social responsibility (CSR) to real corporate sustainability.

Much talk, little action

There is much sustainability talk from business. Indeed, the increasing number of sustainability declarations from business may indicate a gradual shift in business values. Yet, we are no closer to a comprehensive plan for action, with the responsibility for environmental, social and economic negative impact fragmented across transnational corporate groups and global value chains. Many companies report on their sustainability activity. Yet, there is still a lack of coherent and stringent regulation of sustainability reporting and generally no requirements for external verification of sustainability claims. The result is a considerable amount of ‘noise’: colourful websites and promotion material that may reflect real progress but may also be ‘ green-washing’ or ‘SDG washing’, blurring what may in practice be ‘business as usual’.

For investors, the lack of reliable, relevant, verified and comparable information complicates the process of sustainable investing, although obviously, investor demand for such corporate information is a potential driver for change. So-called ESG ratings, aiming to provide sustainability-related information about the corporations, and also informing sustainability indices, are increasingly influential.  Yet, also these ratings are based at least partly on information from the corporations, and the assessment the rating agencies undertake do not seem to take a research-based sustainability concept as their starting point. 

Need to cut through the noise

There is a need to cut through the noise and identify actual best practices and barriers to be dismantled to realize corporate sustainability. The conference will contribute to this through a comparative assessment of corporate best practice and remaining challenges in the perceived front-runners of sustainability: California and the Nordics, to identifying the buildings blocks of global corporate sustainability. 

We welcome proposals for conceptual papers as well as case studies with analyses of policies and regulation, corporate governance models, investor behaviour and sustainability assessments, from scholars as well as from practitioners. Our preference will be for comparative approaches, encompassing one or several Nordic countries and California, while we are also open to single-jurisdiction papers and papers comparing for example US and EU approaches.

We are interested in contributions from all relevant disciplines as well as transdisciplinary contributions, which can contribute to a deeper understanding of what needs to be put in place and how, to ensures the contribution of business and finance to securing the social foundation for all of humanity within planetary boundaries.

Practical information

Prospective presenters are invited to submit a proposal, comprising the title, an abstract of a maximum of 1,000 words, a brief biographical statement of up to 200 words, and the presenter's contact information. Submissions to this call for papers may be lodged at this website.

  • The submission deadline has been extended to 20 January 2019, although earlier submissions are encouraged.
  • The conference organisers will respond no later than by 30 January 2019, though earlier responses will likely be given for early submissions.

The organisers are not able to offer funds for travel or accommodation. However, no registration fee is charged for conference participants, whether giving a presentation or just attending. Refreshments and lunch will be provided for all participants, and presenters will be invited to a speakers’ dinner, free of charge.


The conference is a part of the project Realizing Corporate Sustainability in a Globalized World (RealSusty), funded by the UC Berkeley Peder Sather Center for Advanced Study, and organised by RealSusty together with the SMART Project and the Center for Responsible Business 


    Published Dec. 5, 2018 1:35 PM - Last modified Sep. 29, 2020 3:25 PM