Reconceptualizing Civil Regulation: Advancing the Sustainability Agenda in Asia

Roberto Martin N. Galang, Ateneo de Manila University
Itziar Castello, Copenhagen Business School


This article re-conceptualizes the notion of civil regulation, through an analysis of 775 projects by firms located in 21 Asian countries, wherein we map the state of civil regulation initiatives in the region. We challenge two established assumptions in the Corporate Social Responsibility literature. First, contrary to what is commonly argued, we claim that strong states in Asia promote civil regulation in what we call the “paradox of the weak state”. Second, we not only argue that civil regulation is mainly enforced by multinational enterprises willing to promote international social and environmental standards; but also that local, small and medium companies play a key role in the development of Asian civil regulation. We call this second finding the “CSR importation trap”. Our findings are supported by evidence on the limitations in the interchangeable properties of business and governments. Finally, we argue that, in Asia, governments act as a structuration mechanism which challenges the current understanding of CSR.