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Standards have two major functionalities: for one, they coordinate and – depending on their stickiness due to network effects – regulate human behavior. For another, they function as signaling devices. Which of the two functionalities is dominant and how these two are interrelated are of course empirical questions. In the case of certain private labelling standards, for example,  a broad bundle of rules and minimum standards are condensed into one label or brand, whose premium value in turn shall attract both (additional) producers and consumers to adhere to the standard (see also “FCE goes Fair Trade“).

In the case of Creative Commons‘s alternative copyright licensing standards, James Boyle explicitly referred to this important (albeit unintended) signaling role of licensing standards on a discussion panel at Harvard’s Berkman Center (after 42:50):

“What we didn`t understand was the most important thing about the licence was not that they were licences, it was that they created space, a focal point around which people would make communities.”

Markus Lang, research student in our research group not only pointed me to this quotation of James Boyle but also put it in the broader context of Julia Black’s (2002, jstor) notion of “regulatory conversations”. In applying a discourse theoretical perspective on both public and private regulation, she delineates how coordination of practices is achieved via communicative interactions. Read the rest of this entry »

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has recently started a dual certified timber pilot project with the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) and is now recruiting a manager for it. While this may seem to be a mere routine, it is in fact an interesting and significant development for the FSC. It may help it strengthen its credibility as an environmental certification organization.

The FSC is an international nongovernmental organization that seeks to promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests through the certification of forest management and supply chains. In order to achieve this, forest certification uses conventional market channels. In contrast, fair-trade organizations challenge the conventional market organization by providing poor farmers and communities in developing countries with higher prices for their products compared to global market prices. The adherence of the FSC to conventional market logics caused concern among the FSC stakeholders. They argued that communities and small-scale forests operations, especially in the tropics, did not benefit from the FSC certification program because they were excluded from global markets and because reforming their forest management practices would be too costly. By implementing fair-trade projects, the FSC addresses these concerns. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
May 2023

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