Regulating Business in Times of Turbulence: Thinking out of the Box for a Sustainable Future

Daughters of Themis: International Network of Female Business Scholars celebrates its fifth anniversary in 2020. Daughters of Themis is a network for scholars in all areas of scholarship pertaining to business, including law, economics, management and administration, political science, sociology and natural sciences. We are pleased to announce our first Quinquennial conference.

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The Conference, which will be a virtual event, is open to all interested scholars, policy-makers, students and the general public. 

Times of turbulence

It has become abundantly clear that we live in times of increasing turbulence. This turbulence is multifaceted and of various origins, which are interconnected and tend to be of a transnational nature. We see political turbulence connected to ecological turbulence, and societal turbulence informed by increasing social inequality within and across countries, raising questions of international distributive justice. Climate change, biodiversity loss and pressure on fresh water with its related ecological, social and economic problems contribute to new forms of migration, with ‘environmental refugees’ a 20th century addition to our vocabulary. An unsustainable exploitation of natural resources and increasing pressure on our planetary boundaries is compromising the quality of life for current and future generations.

Civil society is increasingly demanding a sustainable development: with ‘Fridays for Future’ as one of the most impressive newer examples of the younger generation exerting pressure on policy-makers. On the other hand, however, political changes in a number of countries show a reactionary tendency towards nationalism and populism, rejecting science-based knowledge, in harsh contrast to the transnational nature of the fundamental challenges that we urgently need to resolve.

Business and the grand challenge of our time

Business, as a key player in the global economy, is a part of the problem and will have to be a part of the solution if we are to meet the grand challenge of our time: securing the social foundation for humanity now and in the future, while staying within planetary boundaries. What does this mean for the regulation of businesses? We know that current efforts of regulating business have been inadequate, but how should a sustainability-oriented regulation of business be designed?

To move towards sustainability requires innovate solutions, informed by interdisciplinary and transnational perspectives, in order to achieve a transformation of business from a linear and unsustainable business as usual to one based on circularity and on internalising its environmental, social and economic impacts. We need business to create value in a way that respects human rights and contributes to securing the social basis for people and communities across global value chains. Circularity of business requires more than resource-efficiency and recyclability; the full cycle of products, processes and services of business must be designed and carried out so as to stay within planetary boundaries.

Thought leaders in business are advocating such a transformation, and increasingly, investors and consumers are exerting market pressure towards more sustainable business. We see an emerging shift in social norms, towards a more integrated and holistic thinking. Yet, these positive trends are insufficient in themselves – and new thinking about regulation of business is required.

Regulation, understood as state legislation, cannot alone provide a useful answer to the international and interconnected challenges of the turbulences described. Lack of legal compliance and various forms of cross-border regulatory evasion undermines the predominantly national regulation of business, which even if complied with fully, would not be sufficient for the necessary transformation to sustainable business. A broader understanding of regulation is called for, including social norms, markets pressure, and the physical world, both natural and manufactured, including financial technology, as regulatory modalities. This is in itself a call not only for legal scholars but also for business scholars from across disciplines to engage in a ‘thinking-out-of-the box’ analysis of the regulation of business.


Conference programme (pdf).


Please register your participation by 14 October.

Organising committee

Any questions may be directed to Beate Sjåfjell.


Published May 28, 2020 10:47 AM - Last modified Oct. 14, 2020 1:36 PM