Introducing the MSI Database: An Overview of the Global Landscape of Standard-Setting Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives

Today, MSI Integrity, the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, and Miller & Chevalier launched the MSI Database, a searchable online resource for information about multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs). Available at, the website catalogues information about the scope, governance, and operations of transnational standard-setting MSIs.

Since the 1990s, MSIs have emerged as prominent global governance institutions, seeking to address some of the most challenging issues in the global economy. The 45 MSIs included in the database operate across global industries and set standards for companies and governments on a range of human rights, governance, and environmental issues ranging from forced labor to government corruption and forest conservation. These MSIs operate in over 170 countries on six continents, certifying the production of clothing and other manufactured goods, monitoring commercial fishing practices, setting sustainability standards for cocoa and cotton production, and more.

The database is intended as an open-access resource for learning about these initiatives. It catalogues publicly available information about the mission, governance structures and operations of transnational standard-setting MSIs, including the following data points:

For example, the database entry for Better Cotton Initiative includes the industry group the MSI operates in, stakeholder representation on its governing body, its mission, launch date, and key institutional design characteristics:

This online resource is intended to support continued debate and discussion about the voluntary governance of the private sector and encourage further research and dialogue about the role of MSIs. Accordingly, the MSI Database does not evaluate, rate, or rank MSIs, and is instead envisioned as an introduction to the global landscape of MSIs and how they describe themselves.

As the MSI Database currently provides a condensed overview of each MSI and its characteristics, we encourage MSI participants, researchers, and interested stakeholders from industry, government, and civil society to contact us with feedback about how to improve or expand this database in the future – whether by adding indicators, including new MSIs, or otherwise.

Next month, MSI Integrity and the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics will also be releasing a report summarizing initial findings from the MSI Database. The report, The New Regulators? Assessing the Landscape of Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives, highlights key findings from the database, noting the presence of transnational standard-setting MSIs in various industries, patterns in MSI institutional governance, and analysis of how these MSIs set and monitor compliance with their standards. It also identifies potential questions raised by these findings that could be a starting point for future research.

We hope the MSI Database serves as a useful resource for practitioners and researchers and welcome feedback, questions, and observations at

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