Cross-sector dialogue for sustainability: To partner or not to partner?

Call for papers for: Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

Guest Editors

Céline Louche, Audencia Business School, Nantes, France, [email protected]
Suzanne Young, La Trobe Business School, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, [email protected]
Martin Fougère, Hanken School of Economics, Finland, [email protected]
Isabel Grimm, ISAE/FGV, Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil, [email protected]


As we work towards building a more sustainable world, we cannot work in isolation. Cross-sector coordination and collaborations (public, private, and nonprofit) are necessary to advance sustainability and implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Murray, Haynes, & Hudson, 2010). Although research and practice on cross-sector partnerships have thrived this last decade (e.g. Clarke & Crane, 2018), a recent report by Fishman (2018) reveals low levels of trust among stakeholders and a lack of partnership building skills. As a result, partnerships remain too often short-term engagements restricted to funding purposes and the dialogue between actors tends to be ineffective and often deprived of meaning.

Through this call, we want to critically revisit the very essence of what real partnership and dialogue mean. Some scholars have started the discussion by calling for more relational practices (Lambrechts, Grieten, Bouwen, & Corthouts, 2009), positive institutional collaborations (Nilsson, 2015), and rebalancing the relation among societies, businesses, and their associated supply chains, and governments (Azevedo & Gates, 2019; Mintzberg, 2015).
It directly questions whether ‘partnership’ is the most suitable strategy and organizing form to address the SDGs, especially for comparatively less powerful civil society actors that might be excluded from those formal forms of dialogue and collaboration. To this aim, some NGOs have recently switched from an adversarial stance to directly engaging with corporations, in a form of dialogue that lies in a space between ‘adversarial’ and ‘partnership’ (Burchell & Cook, 2013; Laasonen, Fougère, & Kourula, 2012).

Meanwhile, the SDGs are also characterized by persistence of conflicts where certain communities are bound to be ‘losers’ (e.g. of land rights and livelihoods). The risk with multi-stakeholder partnerships is that the voices of these communities become suppressed by the guise of broad representation and consensus. This sheds light on the desirability of various expressions of dissensus and agonistic dialogue (Brown & Tregidga, 2017; Dillard & Brown, 2015) Thus, imagining different types of institutional arrangements that could give a space for a democratic expression of these tensions through dialogue would be important.
Inspired by the above arguments, this special issue aims to provide academics with a theoretical understanding of the relationship between the notion of partnership and the need for cross-sector dialogue among civil society organizations, businesses and their associated supply chains – an understanding that may take partnership as a starting point for good dialogue, but may also problematize the partnership imperative implied by SDG 17 and suggest alternative paths for effective dialogue conducive to sustainable development.

We would especially like to encourage theoretical and empirical papers that tackle the issue partnership for sustainability in new and bold ways.

Contributions may focus on, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • Evaluating the impact of cross-sector partnerships for sustainability
  • Identifying different forms of partnerships
  • Understanding the tensions and paradoxes in partnerships
  • Developing inclusive partnerships
  • Learning form failures in partnerships
  • Developing meaningful dialogue in and out of partnerships
  • Investigating  alternative forms of cross-sector dialogue beyond the formal ‘partnership’ types
  • Moving from an adversarial to a more constructive dialogue
  • Exploring the space between adversarial and partnership
  • Dissensus and agonistic dialogue

Authors are invited to contact the guest editors should they want to suggest a theme of inquiry or validate whether a research topic falls within the scope of the special issue.


Submitting and Schedules

  • Papers submitted to the special issue will undergo a typical double-blind review process
  • Submissions to the journal must be made using ScholarOne Manuscripts, the online submission and peer review system
  • Author guidelines can be found on the journal's page.
  • The submissions window opens on 31 October 2019, The link will be available on this website on this date
  • The submission deadline is 29 February 2020

Associated with the following conference

This special issue of SAMPJ is in collaboration with the 7th CR3+ conference to be held in La Trobe Business School, Melbourne, Australia, on 24 and 25 October 2019. However, submissions to this special issue may be made directly without submitting to the conference.

Important dates for the Special Issue

  • ScholarOne open for submissions: to be defined by Emerald
  • Submission deadline for the special Issue: 29 February 2020

Important dates for conference

  • 7th CR3+ conference submission deadline: 10 June 2019
  • Dates of the 7th CR3+ conference: 24 and 25 October 2019


Azevedo, G., & Gates, A. (2019). Wake Up! The World Is Out of Balance and If You Do Nothing You Are Part of the Problem: An Interview With Henry Mintzberg. Journal of Management Inquiry, 28(2), 180–186.
Brown, J., & Tregidga, H. (2017). Re-politicizing social and environmental accounting through Rancière: On the value of dissensus. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 61, 1-21
Burchell, J., & Cook, J. (2013). CSR, Co-optation and Resistance: The Emergence of New Agonistic Relations Between Business and Civil Society. Journal of Business Ethics, 115(4), 741-754.
Clarke, A., & Crane, A. (2018). Cross-Sector Partnerships for Systemic Change: Systematized Literature Review and Agenda for Further Research. Journal of Business Ethics, 150(2), 303-313.
Dillard, J., & Brown, J. (2015). Broadening out and opening up: an agonistic attitude toward progressive social accounting. Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 6(2), 243-266.
Fishman, A. (2018). UN Leaders Identify Gaps and Best Practices for Cross-Sector Partnerships.  Retrieved from
Laasonen, S., Fougère, M., & Kourula, A. (2012). Dominant Articulations in Academic Business and Society Discourse on NGO–Business Relations: A Critical Assessment. Journal of Business Ethics, 109(4), 521-545
Lambrechts, F., Grieten, S., Bouwen, R., & Corthouts, F. (2009). Process Consultation Revisited. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 45(1), 39-58.
Mintzberg, H. (2015). Rebalancing society: Radical renewal beyond left, right, and center. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
Murray, A., Haynes, K., & Hudson, L. J. (2010). Collaborating to achieve corporate social responsibility and sustainability? Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, 1(2), 161-177.
Nilsson, W. (2015). Positive institutional work: exploring institutional work through the lens of positive organizational scholarship. Academy of management Review, 40(3), 370-398.

More information on the Guest editors

Suzanne Young is Professor of Corporate Governance and Corporate Responsibility and Associate Head of the La Trobe Business School - Partnerships, responsible for the School's external teaching partnerships located domestically and internationally. Her areas of expertise include corporate governance, corporate responsibility, leadership and management and employee relations. Suzanne was influential in La Trobe becoming a signatory to the UN Principles of Responsible Management Education and has developed relationships with industry and leading research consultancies in the area of Corporate Responsibility and Global Citizenship, Leadership and Organisational Change.
Suzanne has taught extensively in international programs and her research has been presented at national and international conferences in Australia, UK, Europe and America. Her interests are in the public sector, outsourcing, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, and employee relations and her current research projects include corporate governance and sustainability, responsible management education, outsourcing and public sector management.

Céline Louche is Professor of Business & Society and head of CSR research at Audencia Business School, France. She received her doctorate in Environmental Sciences from Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Building from organizational, institutional and strategic perspectives, her research examines the interplay between business and society. It includes topics such as corporate responsibility, sustainable development, and responsible finance. She published in journals such as Human relations, Business and Society, Journal of Business Ethics, World Development, Journal of Management Development, and The International Journal of Human Resource Management. She recently published a special issue on Financial Markets and the Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy in Organization & Environment. Prior to academia, she worked as Sustainability Analyst for Responsible Investment at Triodos Bank in The Netherlands.

Martin Fougère is an Associate Professor of Management and Politics at Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland. His main focus in research has been at the intersection of business & society and critical management studies, with a more particular recent interest in the politics of cross-sector and multi-stakeholder partnerships. His work has been published in journals such as Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Macromarketing, Management Learning, Organization, and Scandinavian Journal of Management. He co-authored the book Marketing Discourse: A critical perspective and was an associate editor of Scandinavian Journal of Management from 2012 to 2018.

Isabel Jurema Grimm is a post doctoral in Urban Management from the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUC-PR) (2018). PhD in Environment and Development, Federal University of Paraná. Master in Regional Development from FURB (Blumenau). Graduated in Tourism from the University of Western Paraná - UNIOESTE. Specialist in Administration of the Development of the Tourist Activity in Receiving Centers by USP - SÃO PAULO and Specialist in Didactics and Teaching Methodology by UNOPAR. He studied Hospitality Management in Mallorca - Spain. Researcher at the Nucleus of Research (NECOS) of UFPR \ PR with emphasis on Ecossocioeconomia Urbana. Coordinator of the Postgraduate Program, professional masters in Governance and Sustainability (PPGS) of the Higher Institute of Management and Economics - ISAE. It operates with lines of research in Sustainable Development, Urban Management, Ecosocioeconomics, Climate Change and Low Carbon Tourism