Keywords: environmental protection, sustainability, institutional theory, stakeholder theory, learning, legitimacy, power, multi-stakeholders, multi-stakeholder partnerships, enaction, governance innovation, sustainable development, metallurgy industry, NGOs, non-governmental organisations, ecological impact, market forces, economic logic, organisational change, activist groups
Enacting ecological and collaborative rationality through multiparty collaboration – a case of innovation in governance
The article presents the case study of a partnership between a metallurgy company and an NGO concerned with environmental protection. The partnership constituted an attempt to reconcile the firm's economic objectives with those of the citizens who lived in the area on which it had an ecological impact. Driven by high ideals, the multistakeholder partnerships were an innovation inspired by the ideal speech situation theory and a focus on learning and innovation. The partnership seemingly created an arena defined by norms of 'disinterested rationality' with an objective of innovating and progressing toward sustainable development. The partnership had only a marginal influence on the firm's activities, which were mainly determined by market forces and economic logic. The article concludes with a rather critical perspective on the outcomes of the case in terms of learning, innovation and change, with a theoretical lens inspired by theories on learning, legitimacy and power. The article contributes to the understanding and definition of legitimacy in a polyphonic context, where different views coexist or confront. Legitimacy is neither an outside nor static institutional feature, but rather resembles a kaleidoscope of perceptions that are defined, temporarily granted and redefined through discursive interactions. In such a context, moral arguments are confronted with other moral arguments while actors redefine their knowledge and cognitive frameworks. Practical recommendations are formulated for the convenors of multistakeholders partnerships, activist groups and firms.