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In late May, the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies published my paper on the implementation of transnational voluntary forestry standards in Russia in its discussion paper series (From Transnational Voluntary Standards to Local Practices: A Case Study of Forest Certification in Russia. MPIfG Discussion Paper 11/7). In the paper, I attempt to deconstruct the process of implementation and suggest that the current literature has paid little attention to two social processes that accompany – or even constitute – the implementation of transnational voluntary standards: collective learning and stakeholder interest negotiation. Basically, I argue that previous research examines carefully various factors that explain why certain companies in certain countries commit to voluntary environmental standards, but has so far mainly assumed that once standards are adopted, the improvements in practices will occur (if there is a gap between standards and practice, which is most often the case, as some research shows). Instead, I suggest that implementation should not be taken for granted and propose a framework for understanding how companies and activists translate transnational voluntary standards into on-the-ground practices, particularly in a difficult context of non-advanced industrial countries. Empirically, I apply this framework to the analysis of the implementation of the Forest Stewardship Council’s forestry standards in Russian forest enterprises. Read the rest of this entry »
Sounds ridiculous? Yet, it is becoming possible. The Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC) announced last week that the Italian brewery Gino Perisutti now offers two types of beer that carry a PEFC logo. PEFC offers certification services to forest operations practicing responsible forest management in accordance with the PEFC principles and criteria of good forest management, as well as to producers using certified material in their final products. Its logo enables buyers and consumers to identify products coming from well-managed forests.
The two types of beer are brewed on the ingredients coming from PEFC-certified forests: spruce bark, mountain pine buds and Scotch pine needles from PEFC-certified forests in north-eastern Italy. In addition to the PEFC-certified ingredients and classical beer components, Gino Perisutti’s beer also contains fair-trade species.
Although it may sound funny, such events may be interpreted as evidence of the increasing scope of forest certification as a form of governance and of the growing market visibility of products that have been certified as meeting the standards of responsible management of natural resources. In turn, the growing visibility helps consumers identify and recognize more responsibly produced products and purchase them and thereby support systems of governance aiming at promoting the sustainable use of nature. No doubt, as consumers, stakeholders and researchers we should also be aware of what is behind the logo but even the very fact that such logos are becoming increasingly important in the market can become one of the crucial drops in the ocean of local and global politics of nature.
On May 22, 2008 the U.S. Congress passed amendments to the Lacey Act of 1900 that make it unlawful to import, export, sell, purchase or transport in interstate or international commerce any plants or products made of plants harvested or traded in violation of domestic and international laws, including timber and timber products. These amendments may open a new era in the development of global forest governance.
For one thing, this is a U.S. law that not only bans domestic trade in goods that were produced in violation of domestic laws of the United States, U.S. States and foreign countries but also attempts to indirectly regulate the production in foreign countries. At the same time, the Lacey Act itself does not violate international free trade regulations. The Lacey Act therefore brings public forms of forest governance back in the transnational space. Another interesting thing about it is that public and private actors reactivate an old piece of legislation to address a current issue. The case of the amended Lacey Act demonstrates that actors can effectively export dormant or taken-for-granted rules from one issue domain to another to achieve their goals. Finally, the Lacey Act opens up new opportunities for a public-private cooperation: if public authorities recognize certificates issued by nonstate certification programs similar to the Forest Stewardship Council forest certification as a sufficient proof of legality of timber, this may become an incentive for producers to certify their forest management. Nonstate actors can therefore use the Lacey Act as a leverage to promote better standards of forest management among or to reward well-performing producers. Read the rest of this entry »
German daily newspaper Die Tageszeitung reported last week (Frauen sollen Krise lösen by Beate Willms, April 2 2009) the results of the seven-year study of the effects of the voluntary agreement of German companies to support employed women. Seeking to avoid governmental regulation, companies concluded the agreement in 2001. On behalf of the Federal Ministry of Family, Seniors, Women and Youth Affairs (das Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend), the researchers of the German Institute for Economic Research (Deutsches Institut für Wirtscharsforschung, DIW) monitored the share of women in leading positions in the private sector between 2001 and 2007. The results are not particularly surprising. The share of women in leading positions did not change significantly: It increased from 26 to 31% between 2001 and 2006 but went down to 27% in 2007. 98% of positions in management board of 200 largest companies were still occupied by men in 2007. The share of women occupying positions in supervisory boards equaled 10% but the researchers explain it by the pressure form work councils and trade unions.
Although these findings are not directly relevant to the questions of cross-border governance, they made me think about several parallels to transnational private regulation. The findings raise the question of the effectiveness of business self-regulation, which has been one of the core issues in scholarly and policy debates on transnational private regulation. How effective are voluntary agreements and programs and how to improve their effectiveness? These are essentially empirical questions and there are no straight-forward answers. 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 »