Transnational Environmental Governance

Transnational Environmental Governance

The Emergence and Effects of the Certification of Forests and Fisheries

Lars H. Gulbrandsen

In recent years a wide range of non-state certification programs have emerged to address environmental and social problems associated with the extraction of natural resources. This book provides a general analytical framework for assessing the emergence and effectiveness of voluntary certification programs. It focuses on certification in the forest and fisheries sectors, as initiatives in these sectors are among the most advanced cases of non-state standard setting and governance in the environmental realm.

Chapter 3: The Emergence of Forest Certification

Lars H. Gulbrandsen

Subjects: business and management, corporate social responsibility, environment, corporate social responsibility, environmental governance and regulation, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, european politics and policy


Forest certification emerged in response to increased international attention to global forest degradation and prolonged efforts within intergovernmental bodies to develop a legally binding agreement on forests. The lack of a forest convention or any other legally binding agreement on forests gave NGOs and other organizations concerned about forest destruction reasons to seek an alternative solution. This chapter examines the creation and evolution of forest certification schemes. As a foundation for assessing these schemes, it begins with a review of intergovernmental efforts to address forest degradation and deforestation. The second section examines the creation of FSC by a broad coalition of stakeholders and the emergence of producer-backed programs with more discretionary and flexible standards. The third section begins with a comparison of certification standards across various programs, demonstrating that the poorer performers – the producerbacked programs – have increased the stringency of their standards over time. A comparison of auditing procedures reveals a similar pattern: the poorest performers have adopted several conventions to improve their auditing processes. An explanation is then sought for the increased stringency in the standards and auditing procedures of producer-backed programs. The fourth section demonstrates that although producer-backed programs have mimicked some of FSC’s governance arrangements, different approaches to stakeholder involvement indicate that the distinction between a multi-stakeholder and a producer-dominated governance model still applies. The conclusion reflects upon whether the changes in producer-backed programs reflect a real commitment to broaden and deepen the social and environmental leverage of certification or if they are primarily symbolic window-dressing. INTERGOVERNMENTAL...

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