Edited by Frédérique Six and Koen Verhoest
Chapter 6: Being everybody’s accomplice: trust and control in eco-labelling
In the chapter “Being everybody’s accomplice: trust and control in eco-labelling”, the focus is on regulatory regimes as intermediaries. Using case studies of three Swedish eco-labelling organizations (Good Environmental Choice, The Swan, and KRAV), the chapter studies how regulators, through the creation of impersonal system trust, are able to act as guardians of trust on globalized markets. In order to do so, they need to be credible as accomplices to both citizens and organizations (regulatees). Voluntary private regulators need to solve the paradox of appearing to distrust regulatees (in order to attain legitimacy as independent regulators), while simultaneously creating a trusting relationship with them (in order to enable a business relationship and ensure compliance). The studied labelling organizations use a combination of strategies to solve this dilemma. In terms of organizing, the different tasks necessary to create an eco-label are separated and decoupled. However, as it is not the act of monitoring itself that breeds distrust, but rather the attitude of distrust that it tends to signal, such organizational strategies need to be combined with sensegiving strategies, seen here in terms of three storylines, highlighting different aspects or interpretations of the regulatory regime, and aimed at different stakeholders. The chapter thus shows how the intermediary position of a regulatory actor allows it to act as a guardian of trust, but giving this chain of strangers legitimacy and authority, and ensuring compliance with its regulatory regime creates a dilemma that requires strategic sensegiving and organizing in order to be solved.
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