Guest editors

  1. Valentina De Marchi (ESADE)
  2. Mehmet Demirbag (University of Essex)
  3. Ismail Gölgeci (Aarhus University)
  4. Ans Kolk (University of Amsterdam)
  5. Sven Kunisch (Aarhus University)


The global business landscape is undergoing profound shifts as the challenges posed by environmental degradation and climate change become increasingly prominent. Businesses operating across borders impact environmental sustainability in profound ways, ranging from resource extraction (Ghauri et al., 2021) to greenhouse gas emissions (Patnaik, 2019), in their own operations and through their supply chains (Kim & Davis, 2016). The role of international business (IB) in shaping and responding to these challenges, while definitely not new to the academic field (Kolk, 2016), has come into sharper focus in recent years (Yu et al., 2023).

Concerns about planetary boundaries have entered the management literature (e.g., Howard-Grenville & Lahneman, 2021; Whiteman et al., 2013), and growing societal pressures are starting to be reflected in policymaking and corporate intentions and practices. Despite earlier insights on the interaction between institutions and multinational enterprises (MNEs) – be it home- and host-country contexts and or international rule-setting on green issues (e.g. Pinkse & Kolk, 2012; Pisani et al., 2019) – in-depth studies on the complexities relevant to this day and age are relatively scarce and incremental. Existing paradigms and approaches to environmental sustainability fall short of recognizing and addressing the profound challenges that exist (Nadeau, 2008) and there is thus a need for a fundamental reconsideration, with the natural environment being at the top of the agenda.

Such scholarly work is particularly important given the mounting evidence that business activities profoundly impact the natural environment. Various literatures have drawn attention to the loss of biodiversity, potable water, and clean air and soils (e.g., George et al., 2015; Howard-Grenville & Lahneman, 2021; Müller et al., 2016), and how the changing climate threatens the survival of humankind (Rockström et al., 2023; Rockström et al., 2009; Steffen et al., 2015). There are tremendous challenges associated with the creation and implementation of clean energy supply chains (Aflaki & Netessine, 2017), especially concerning the use of critical materials/minerals, requiring circularity (Ciulli et al., 2020) and careful, forward-looking planning considering the environmental implications (Aflaki & Netessine, 2017). The introduction of digital technologies to smoothen international operations offers the potential for addressing environmental concerns but also has shortcomings, which are often unforeseen (Ciulli & Kolk, 2023).

Overall, there is a profound and high-priority imperative for a paradigm shift away from “sustainable” efficiency measures and toward the transformational approaches required to establish equitable and restorative IB policies and practices. Such a paradigm shift and transformational approaches to the connection between the natural environment and IB require profound knowledge about the complex interactions between MNE activity and the natural environment, as well as to provide advice to practicing managers and policymakers.

Aim of the Special Issue

This special issue seeks to turn the spotlight on the ‘natural environment’ so that scholars in IB and cognate fields can inform practice and policymaking while advancing and moving the research frontier to include societal relevance. For example, instead of viewing the natural environment as exogenous, there is a need to study externalities, endogenize the natural environment, and understand how adverse effects can be avoided.

            Recent years have seen the launch of several policy proposals to reverse incentives for the better, but how and what MNEs are responding to and/or anticipating such changes and dealing with trade-offs is largely unknown. MNEs may also have contradictory and unexpected influences on the natural environment worldwide, especially when accounting also for their value chains, and must often make difficult choices to address pressing issues in the natural environment. While traditionally the so-called “pollution haven effect”, which threatens the natural environment in emerging markets and around the globe (Berry et al., 2021), has received most attention, more recent insights point at not just a ‘race to the bottom’ but also ‘race to the top’ effects (Bu & Wagner, 2016; Pisani et al., 2019). It is crucial to better understand the dynamics for replacing incentives to evade by solutions for truly addressing environmental problems as desired by policy professionals (e.g., how carbon credits can truly help reduce emissions, pollution, and environmental harm rather than just creating a market for offsetting).

            We strongly encourage empirical studies and exploratory inductive work with clear relevance for current and future policymaking, considering that a range of countries are taking steps to further environmental sustainability and net-zero technology development.

The objectives of this special issue include:

  • Advancing new perspectives and evidence on IB and the natural environment, including protection, potential restoration, circularity, and redesign towards greener global value chains (GVCs);
  • Developing and extending theories with policy implications that bridge natural and social sciences or fundamentally embed legal insights to advance IB research on environmental sustainability;
  • Developing the connection between IB and public policy by critically examining the impact of policies on MNEs and vice versa.

Prospective authors should note that the purpose of JIBP is to publish policy-relevant research related to IB issues. Work submitted to the special issue is expected to build on the existing body of knowledge as built up in the journal since its creation in 2018, and we also direct attention to the editorials, commentaries, and perspective pieces published as guidance. The guest editorial team will work with the newly established Policy Impact Advisory Committee to optimize the consolidation and extension of scholarly debates on IB and the natural environment that are informative for policy professionals.

Examples of Topic Areas of Interest

1)      Actors (stakeholders and institutions):

  • How do international sustainability standards (e.g., by ISSB) influence MNEs’ policies and activities? How do regulatory frameworks in relation to environmental concerns influence MNEs and their GVCs? How do these approaches come about considering societal pressures and business lobbying?
  • What is the role of supra-national institutions in monitoring and influencing MNEs’ natural resource strategies? What are the interactions between trade policies, environmental regulations, and IB strategies?
  • How do new trends, such as sustainable consumption and citizens resorting to courts, influence global markets and MNEs? What is the role of different stakeholders in policymaking to further environmental sustainability, and what are the differential effects across countries and regions?


2)      Strategies:

  • What are the strategic approaches of MNEs towards environmental stewardship? How do MNE innovation and technology transfer contribute to environmental sustainability? What are MNE strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation in global markets?
  • Given the level of urbanization and changing global demographics, how do MNEs contribute to the scarcity and distribution of resources such as water, land, air, and food? How do the paradoxes MNEs face in relation to the use and depletion of critical materials, as well as the implications of their extraction on biodiversity and communities, relate to their design and governance of IB activities?
  • What is the potential of nearshoring, onshoring, local production, and geographic route optimization in global supply chains in supporting the natural environment? What are the dynamics of cross-border collaboration for environmental protection in the context of IB?


3)      Governance and GVCs:

  • What policy instruments can help countries capture an externality (such as technology spillovers) from GVCs? How can countries coordinate FDI to prevent rent-seeking and misallocating capital and increase environmental benefits from GVCs?
  • How might an increase in the use of Industry 4.0 type of advanced/digital technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence) affect GVCs from the point of view of the natural environment and different actors/stakeholders in society? What will be the environmental effects of further digitalization in general and specific technologies in particular?
  • How do justice, power asymmetry, inclusion, engagement, and empowerment between supply chain partners from different countries influence the natural environment? When and where do GVC governance choices enable environmental upgrading in GVCs?


4)      Complexities and dynamics:

  • For example, what are the consequences of supply chain tensions in the natural environment and planetary restoration? How do the paradoxes associated with the use and depletion of critical minerals and their policy implications relate to GVC design and governance?
  • What are the temporal dynamics in the interactions between IB and the natural environment? For example, what is the connection between temporal scaling, temporal non-stationarity, and the natural environment in IB? What is the role of MNEs’ time horizons in preserving and restoring the natural environment?

Envisioned Impact

The special issue directly relates to a range of policy initiatives taken in recent years (or still in the works) to promote sustainability and reduce the impact of governments, citizens, and firms on the natural environment while promoting innovation. Examples include the EU’s Green Deal and Net-Zero Industry Act and the Inflation Reduction Act in the US. International organizations as well as standard setters are also considering the best ways to promote sustainability (sometimes under the ESG heading).


Submission and Review Process

Submitted manuscripts must adhere to the scope, standards, format, and editorial policy of the Journal of International Business Policy (JIBP). “Author Guidelines” and the JIBP Style Guide for Authors must be followed. Full paper submissions to the special issue will be reviewed as soon as they are received – the submission system opens 4 months before the SI deadline. As papers are accepted, they will be published on the JIBP Online First page on a rolling basis, irrespective of the timing of the other papers of the SI, to ensure quick publication process. Published SI papers will all be part of the same SI electronic collection, but might be published in different issues.


15 May 2024               JIBP’s Manuscript Central portal opens for full paper submissions

15 September 2024     Final deadline for submission of full papers via JIBP’s MC portal

September 2025          Expected publication of SI articles (published online on a rolling basis)