What Is the Evidence for Changes in Eco-Labeling Requirements?: Comparing the Dynamic Nature of Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standards in the United States
Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 10:35 AM
Gautier (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Over the last 25 years “non-state market driven” (NSMD) certification programs have emerged to fill perceived gaps in public policy regulations. Drawing on market incentives and consumers, these arenas of private governance have emerged to address some of the most important environmental and social policy challenges of our times including forest degradation, fisheries depletion, climate change, working conditions and poverty alleviation. While studies of influence, effectiveness and evaluation, are now starting to emerge, few have incorporated a key trend from 25 years of empirical evidence: the standards behind the eco-labeling programs are constantly changing. What causes these changes to occur? What are the implications for creating support among those being audited? What are the implications of answering these questions for effectiveness of private authority? This study begins to answer these questions by conducting an empirical analysis of changes within, and across, two of the leading forest certification programs in the United States: The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), created by the world’s leading environmental advocacy groups, and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, originally created by the American Forest and Paper Association. We expand a previous framework for assessing forestry policies in order to assess change in each program over time. We find that, instead of conforming to previous theories (Cashore et al. 2004) that predicted the two programs would, in an effort to gain legitimacy beyond their core audiences, converge, but never meet, the evidence indicates that both programs are ratcheting up social and environmental requirements. In order to better understand and place in context evidence over standards, greater theoretical and empirical attention is needed to assess whether the programs are “racing to the top” over standards; whether they might soon hit “ceilings” if market demand remains insufficient; and implications of these dynamic processes for measuring evidence of “on the ground” performance.