Non-state global environmental governance : the emergence and effectiveness of forest and fisheries certification schemes
Appears in the following Collection
- Institutt for statsvitenskap 
AbstractThere is growing scholarly interest in the role and function of non-state actors in global governance. A number of non-state governance schemes have been created in recent years to set environmental and social standards for the certification of private companies and producers. This thesis focuses on certification schemes in the forestry and fisheries sectors, as initiatives in these two sectors arguably represent the most advanced cases of non-state rulemaking and governance in the environmental realm. The following research questions are examined. (1) How can we explain the emergence and spread of non-state certification schemes in the forestry and fisheries sectors? (2) How and to what extent does the organization of standard-setting processes influence standard-setting outcomes? (3) What are the causal mechanisms that link certification schemes and behavioral change; and when, and under what conditions, are these mechanisms likely to influence behavior?
In examining these questions, the thesis draws on institutional theory in political science and sociology – particularly regime literature and sociological institutionalist approaches to organizational behavior – as well as nascent research on global environmental governance. The empirical part of the thesis comprises six journal articles that examine the emergence and effectiveness of forest and fisheries certification schemes, with a particular focus on forest certification. The first three articles examine the formation and design of forest and fisheries certification schemes at the global level and the last three focus on forest certification and forest politics in Norway and Sweden. The Norwegian and Swedish cases form a relevant comparison, not only because they have been at the forefront of developing forest certification schemes, but also because there are salient differences in the unfolding of non-state rulemaking processes in the two countries. The data in this study consist of primary documents such as standards documents, certification reports, environmental assessments, and public policy documents; interviews with representatives of certification schemes, environmental organizations, industry associations, and government agencies; and secondary sources.
Because producers self-select into certification schemes, an understanding of their patterns of emergence and adoption decisions is fundamental for assessing the effectiveness of certification schemes. An examination of the underlying factors influencing adoption decisions revealed that NGO coalition building with big retailers and the targeting of producers were important factors. The size, ownership, and export dependence of an operation affected its vulnerability to NGO targeting. Variation in forest industry structure appeared as a particularly significant variable for explaining divergent forest certification choices in Norway and Sweden. Whereas the big, export-dependent Swedish forest companies responded to advocacy group and market pressures by adopting the NGO-backed Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards, non-industrial forest owners in both Norway and Sweden rejected this scheme because of narrower market exposure and their belief that the relatively stringent FSC standards were unsuited for certification of small-scale non-industrial forestry. The non-industrial forest owners responded collectively to NGO pressure to adopt the FSC standards by creating landowner-dominated schemes with more discretionary and flexible standards. Their strong associational systems facilitated collective and strategic responses to NGO pressure to certify. In the case of fisheries certification, there were less NGO activism and direct targeting of producers to convince or pressure them to participate in certification schemes. Instead, WWF partnered with Unilever, the major food conglomerate, and built alliances with supermarket chains to create markets for fisheries certification.
To assess the effectiveness of certification schemes, this thesis examines patterns of participation, the effects of third-party auditing, and changes in producer behavior following certification. It is argued that understanding exactly how certification schemes influence behavior requires the identification of casual mechanisms and behavioral pathways. The analysis demonstrates that certification schemes work through a “logic of consequences” by restructuring incentives, and through a “logic of appropriateness” through the internalization of norms, rules, and procedures about acceptable or appropriate behavior in particular roles or situations. It is argued that what were clearly utility-maximizing adaptations to new norms, principles, and market expectations, have, over time, resulted in some degree of learning and internalization of environmental protection norms among producers – although the “logic of consequences” continues to play an important role in management decisions.
In assessing broader consequences, this thesis looks beyond the instrument itself to a discussion of the changing relationships among business actors and environmental organizations, public and private regulatory interplay, and the reshaping of legitimate rulemaking authority in global environmental governance. Unlike the predominant view in the global governance literature, this research demonstrates that the state remains a critical actor in the successful implementation of non-state governance schemes, and that these schemes tend to supplement rather than supplant traditional government regulations.
List of Papers
Article 1: Gulbrandsen, Lars H. (2006) "Creating Markets for Eco-labeling: Are Consumers Insignificant?" International Journal of Consumer Studies 30 (5): 477–489.
Article 2: Gulbrandsen, Lars H. (2008) "Accountability Arrangements in Non-State Standards Organizations: Instrumental Design and Imitation", Organization 15 (4): 563–583.
Article 3: Gulbrandsen, Lars H. (2004) "Overlapping Public and Private Governance: Can Forest Certification Fill the Gaps in the Global Forest Regime?" Global Environmental Politics 4 (2): 75–99.
Article 4: Gulbrandsen, Lars H. (2005) "The Effectiveness of Non-State Governance Schemes: A Comparative Study of Forest Certification in Norway and Sweden", International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 5 (2): 125–149.
Article 5: Gulbrandsen, Lars H. (2008) "The Role of Science in Environmental Governance: Competing Knowledge Producers in Swedish and Norwegian Forestry", Global Environmental Politics 8 (2): 99–122.
Article 6: Gulbrandsen, Lars H. (2005) "Sustainable Forestry in Sweden: The Effect of Competition among Private Certification Schemes", Journal of Environment and Development 14 (3): 338–335.